Mon. Jul 22nd, 2024

Panama’s first people displaced by climate change are preparing to leave their family homes

By Vaseline May30,2024
Panama’s first people displaced by climate change are preparing to leave their family homes

About 1,200 members of a Panamanian indigenous community whose island home was threatened by rising sea levels received new government-sponsored homes on the mainland on Wednesday.

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The soon-to-be former residents of Carti Sugtupu Island are the first people in Panama to be displaced by climate change.

Caught between nostalgia and hope for a better future, the residents of Carti Sugtupu exchange their family home for the newly built settlement of Nuevo Carti (New Carti) in the indigenous region of Guna Yala on Panama’s Caribbean coast.

“I’m excited. The houses are beautiful. They are small, but very comfortable,” Vidalma Yanez, 57, told AFP outside her new home.

On the island – the size of five football fields – the community lived in rudimentary, dirt-floored houses crammed on top of each other, some of which jutted out into the sea on stilts.

They had no drinking water, sanitation or reliable electricity and lived from fishing, harvesting starchy crops such as cassava and plantain, traditional textile production and some tourism.

Their homes regularly flooded and experts warned that rising sea levels would soon make life even more uncomfortable.

Scientists say climate change is causing sea levels to rise, mainly due to meltwater from warming glaciers and ice caps.

“The climate crisis that the world is experiencing… has forced us here in Panama to move (the population) of the island to this urban development of about 300 homes,” President Laurentino Cortizo said on Wednesday as he handed over the house keys to a first meeting . beneficiary family.

To plant flowers

The big move – about fifteen minutes away by boat – starts next week.

“I like the house,” says 26-year-old Marialis Lopez, who is moving with her three children and two brothers, and can’t wait to take her furniture and “plant flowers.”

“I can change my life here, it’s better than being there” on the overcrowded island, she told AFP.

Carti Sugtupu, whose inhabitants all belong to the indigenous Guna group, is one of 49 inhabited islands in the area – all between 50 centimeters (19 inches) and one meter (three feet) above sea level.

The new settlement, built by the government at a cost of $12.2 million and owned by the community, features houses each with two bedrooms, a living and dining room, kitchen, bathroom and laundry – all with water and electricity.

Each house is approximately 41 square meters (441 square feet) in size on a plot of 300 square meters (3,200 square feet).

There are also communal cultural spaces and facilities for people with disabilities.


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