The inaugural International Conference on Oceans and Rivers (ICOR) is a timely meet for Pacific Islands as it faces the threat of climate change says Fijian President His Excellency Ratu Epeli Nailatikau.
The Fijian President made the comments while opening the first ever International Conference on Oceans and Rivers at the Fiji National University’s Namaka Campus in Nadi in Monday.
“We, in the Pacific, have been dependent on oceans and rivers for centuries and given that so much has been happening over the past millennium with global warming, which is not only having an impact on food resources and causing an increase in natural disasters such as flooding which in turn cause huge economic losses, but it is also forcing people to relocate their homes and very soon – God forbid – even to vacate their countries, which they have called their home for centuries,” he said.
“The threat of climate change is being felt through drastic changes in weather patterns; prolonged droughts and great variability in the rainfall regime have made us rethink about protecting our freshwater resources.”
The Head of State added that while strict rules and regulations could be imposed against those who breach the law, there must be enough awareness provided to change attitudes. He added that a conference like the one today was a start in deterring offences.
“The people of Fiji have always been environmentally conscious but we must introduce added safeguards. Marine protected Areas (MPA) have been established in different areas by the village elders to ensure the protection and sustainability of our reefs and marine life.
“Nadi is a good example of a town which time and again has been battered by constant floods and this has been happening in recent years,” His Excellency said.
“I hope that with the presence of many experts in this field, Nadi can be viewed as a case study dealing with natural resources and we can all learn from this case study to better prepare ourselves for future disasters.”