“The water is now close to graves and pig pens” – World Water Day in Kiribati

“The water is now close to graves and pig pens” – World Water Day in Kiribati

With Marlene Rasmussen

The central Pacific nation of Kiribati is under serious threat from climate change, as rising sea levels cause villages to disappear. While communities relocate to escape the encroaching sea, they are in dire need of water. Salt water has entered what were once fresh water ponds and wells and relocation has placed greater demand on these already strained resources.   

Marlene Rasmussen has been working as a project manager with the Diocese of South Tarawa and Nauru for over ten years. She has seen how economic and environmental changes have affected access to clean water and the work of local organisations in addressing these challenges.

“In the past Kiribati only had wells, the water was clean and pure. However with the population growth and houses are jammed close together, the water is now close to graves and pig pens,” Marlene said. “Many wells are brackish where the salt water has entered the local people’s well.”

She has said the lack of fresh water is even more critical on the remote islands of Kiribati as “few people on the outer islands would have access to tanks or pumps.” In South Tarawa, however, there are signs of development. The Diocese of Tarawa and Nauru has been working towards sustainable solutions.

“Today, on all large permanent roofs, water tanks have been installed to provide clean pure water for the village people. We have wells, tanks, solar pumps, hand pumps, electric pumps to obtain water. Desalinisation of water is a sign for the future for small communities.”

Of course, these tanks are only as effective as weather permits. Marlene noted that in “2017-2018 it was very dry and many tanks were empty during this period. However, in 2019, it has rained every day.”

You can support the work of Palms Australia in Kiribati by donating to our school nurse project or our English teacher project. With your support, we will provide professional skill development for school staff in the outer islands of Kiribati.