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Nukualofa, Friday 16 March 2012: How exactly will climate change impact the lives of people living on small islands and what can be done to adapt to those impacts? On Lifuka Island in Tonga’s Ha’apai group, a project to find answers to this question is underway. The answer could help people around the Pacific and the world prepare  for, and adapt to, climate change.

The project is part of the Pacific Adaptation Strategy Assistance Program (PASAP) and aims to assess the vulnerability and adaptation to sea level rise in Lifuka. It is being run by the Government of Tonga with the assistance of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) and the Tonga Community Development Trust (TCDT).

Fuka Kitekei’aho, National Coordinator for PASAP, said that Lifuka was chosen because it had already experienced sea level rise as a result of an earthquake in May 2006.

“The earthquake measured approximately 7.9 on the Richter scale and resulted in subsidence of 23 cm of the western side of Lifuka Island,” Mr Kitekei’aho said. “In the past four years, the island has experienced significant coastal erosion over a three kilometre section of the coastline, including where the harbour, homes, and hospital are located.”