Seychelles: When climate change swallows islands

Status: 02.11.2021 03:28 a.m.

Rising sea levels are gnawing at the Seychelles. Coastal drops are increasing and entire islands are threatened with sinking. President Ramkalawan speaks of a struggle for survival. He has a clear demand for the rich countries.

By Norbert Hahn, ARD Studio Nairobi

“When the oceans rise and the thunder rumbles, I will float with you, father, over the storm,” they sing at Sunday mass in the Anglican Church of St. Luke of Victoria, the capital of the Seychelles. Without priest Wavel Ramkalawan, this church would not have been built ten years ago. Now he is sitting on a bench in the front row, as the elected president of the island republic; next to him his wife, who operates the laptop through which the songs appear on the screens on the wall. Will the Church Withstand the Ocean and Storm When Climate Change Strikes? How can the president protect his almost 100,000 islanders? And the 115 islands of the Seychelles?

Norbert Hahn
ARD-Studio Nairobi

“The passage in the Bible, in which Solomon asks God for wisdom, is of great importance to me,” Ramkalawan tells us later in his official residence. It is these words that would guide him. He has apparently lost faith in his Western counterparts in the rich countries. “Don’t give us lectures. Take money in hand instead of just talking.” For the Seychelles, the struggle for survival has long since begun.

Many islands of the Seychelles are massively threatened by climate change

Norbert Hahn, ARD Nairobi, daily topics 10:30 p.m., 11/1/2021

Endangered: half of all islands

And it looks like this: If the sea level rises as feared, shallower islands could sink. Only the granite islands, on which most of the inhabitants live, are better off. But more than half of the islands could disappear.

Biodiversity would be affected in any case, because the Seychelles have a rich flora and fauna – on the Aldabra Atoll, for example, you will find the world’s largest colony of giant tortoises with 150,000 animals. And possibly the last specimens of the Cuvierrale, a flightless bird. The Seychelles’ red list is much longer.

The Seychelles are a protected area for the giant tortoises. But that too can change with climate change.

Build: ARD Nairobi

Concrete corset against undersinking

Already now you can see coastal breaks everywhere on the main island Mahe and the smaller neighboring islands. Roads have to be protected against the rushing sea with heavy stone, restaurants get a concrete corset. Rangers on a small nature reserve had to move for the first time in decades – the sea has washed away their homes. The sandy beach, which is actually a breeding ground for sea turtles, disappears next door. Petrol stations, rescue stations, fire brigade – many important service providers can be found in the coastal area and are potentially at risk.

Fishing is already affected as the island’s most important source of income alongside tourism. “The tuna moves to other places, and the fishing season also changes,” says Johnny Louys of the Seychelles Fisheries Agency. “That affects our income directly.” If the temperature of the Indian Ocean rises, there are also further consequences for many sea birds in the Seychelles. “Many fish or the octopus don’t come to the surface,” says Nirmal Shah, head of the NGO Nature Seychelles. “We have observed problems with the reproduction of the birds. Chicks have died from lack of food.”

One dimension too big for an island nation

The Seychelles are aware of all these dangers, but completely overwhelmed. A coral reef is artificially renewed with resilient corals – it is time-consuming and expensive. The biggest step so far has been the expansion of the marine protection zone around the archipelago. It is now as big as the Federal Republic of Germany. One third of 1.4 million square kilometers of ocean is now protected. In addition, there is a shared protection area with the island state of Mauritius: the seagrass areas the size of Switzerland store more CO2 than a forest of the same size.

Growing corals is a lengthy process – but an important element in the Seychelles’ fight against rising sea levels

Build: ARD Nairobi

The Seychelles make a huge contribution to the world. But it must at least make a measurable contribution to save the Seychelles and many of the small island states. “If this one planet disappears, it doesn’t matter whether countries are rich or have a lot of money in the bank. We will just disappear,” says the president. He will make that clear in Glasgow. After the conversation in the “State House”, Ramkalawan shows us his private study, on the table: a splendid Bible. The bookmark is in the “Book of Wisdom”.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *