ONE canary in the climate-change coalmine may have just quietly fallen from her perch. The tiny Pacific island nation of Tuvalu has declared a state of emergency after a fresh water shortage forced it to shutter its schools and hospitals and begin water rationing across the country.
The crisis is not confined to Tuvalu, neighbouring Tokelau, a protectorate of New Zealand, also declared a state of emergency this week, after its water supply dwindled to the point where it was completely reliant on an emergency seven-day supply of bottled water shipped in from independent Samoa.
Even worse: nearby Samoa, which has a population 15 times that of Tuvalu and Tokelau combined, has begun to ration water in parts of its territory for the same reasons. The freshwater crisis racking the region, which The Red Cross calls “dire, with rain not expected for the next couple of months”, shows no signs of abating and every indication of spreading throughout the region’s fragile eco-system.
Ralph Gonsalves, the prime minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, laid the blame for the current debacle squarely at the feet of developed economies.
He was “baffled” he said, “by the intransigence of major emitters and developed nations that refuse to shoulder the burden for arresting climate changes that are linked to the excesses of their own wasteful policies.”