Kiribati turns to UAE to save island

The UAE is putting together a plan expected to cost hundreds of millions of dollars to save the island nation of Kiribati from rising ocean levels.

The low-lying Pacific island nation of Kiribati is turning to the United Arab Emirates - home to the artificial Palm Islands resort - to save it from rising ocean levels.

Speaking to a conference on climate change in Wellington, Kiribati President Anote Tong said the project with the UAE "will be a ground-breaking initiative giving hope where now there is no hope".

Kiribati is a group of atolls and one larger island, most of which are less than two metres above sea level.

It is already experiencing problems across its 811sq/km of land surface as high tides cause coastal erosion and the contamination of drinking water by salt water and sewage.

The UAE was putting together a plan for the project with technical assistance from Dutch engineers, Tong said.

"We hope to build up the island by dredging material from the lagoon, because we don't have a lot of material close by. We don't have a continental shelf, so it is not as easy a task as building an island in the UAE," he told dpa.

The project is expected to cost hundreds of millions of dollars and Kiribati will look to other governments to help fund the initiative, including the UAE and New Zealand.

A UAE delegation was in Kiribati in January to make a first "holistic" assessment of what kind of constructions - from seawalls to land reclamation - would best counter the threat of rising seas, the Emirates News Agency reported.

Even so, Tong said it was unlikely that Kiribati would be able to rebuild the islands to the extent that it could accommodate its current population of 103,000.

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