Pacific nation prepares for possible exodus

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Fearing that climate change could wipe out their entire Pacific archipelago, the leaders of Kiribati are considering an unusual backup plan: moving the populace to Fiji.

Kiribati president Anote Tong said yesterday his Cabinet had endorsed a plan to buy nearly 6,000 acres on Fiji’s main island, Viti Levu.

The fertile land, being sold by a church group for about $9.6m (just over £6m) could provide an insurance policy for Kiribati’s entire population of 103,000, although he hopes it will never be necessary for everyone to leave.

Kiribati, which straddles the equator near the international date line, has found itself at the leading edge of the debate on climate change because many of its atolls rise just a few feet above sea level.

Mr Tong said some villages have already moved and there have been increasing instances of sea water contaminating the island’s underground fresh water, which remains vital for trees and crops.

Fiji, home to about 850,000 people, is about 1,400 miles south of Kiribati.

Mr Tong said he was awaiting full parliamentary approval for the land purchase, which he expects to happen in April, before discussing the plan formally with Fijian officials.

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