News: Fiji and Oz face climate threat

Wed, 10 Oct 07

Fiji and Australia have joined forces to raise awareness of the impact of climate change, warning that it was threatening the scenery and the livelihoods of thousands...

Tourism and government officials from Australia, Egypt, the Fiji islands and the Seychelles underlined that rising sea levels, warmer temperatures and storms were damaging beaches and coral reefs that underpin a vital part of their economies.

"The issue of climate change is no longer an issue for the future, it is an issue for today," Fijian Secretary for Tourism Banuve Kaumaitotoya told the UN meeting on climate change and tourism.

"There is a sense of urgency in the South Pacific," she added.

Rising sea levels

The idyllic South Pacific Island attracts 500,000 visitors a year and its tourism industry accounts for 80 per cent of development projects.

However, climate change threatens to erode beaches and bring more frequent and intense storms, undermining the island's attractiveness to investors and tourists alike, Ms Kaumaitotoya said.

Similar concerns were expressed by the Maldives and the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean.

They are also confronted by rising sea levels.

Maldives ‘most vulnerable’

Abudllah Mausoom, director general of the Maldives tourism board, underlined that the low lying islands' popularity depended mostly on their natural beauty.

"We have our crystal clear lagoons, snow white beaches, coloured waves, the small animals that live in the reefs and the Maldives sunrise and sunsets," Mausoom said.

"This is our product. Climate change can change all of this. Climate change will change the nature of beauty," he added.

At just 1.3 meters above sea level, three-quarters of the islands forming the Maldives are among the most vulnerable to rising sea levels caused by melting polar ice caps, scientists on the UN's panel on climate change have predicted.

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