Kiribati. With the support of Australia, the Kiribati
authorities began work in early 2009 to find a sustainable
way to utilize the country's scarce freshwater resources.
countryaah, Kiribati lacks surface water and drought is a major problem.
The residents are dependent on rainwater and so-called
aquifers (natural groundwater storage) that exist in the
soil, but many of these are overused. The lack of drinking
water in the country's southern islands is starting to
become disastrous, President Anote Tong told parliament in
April. MPs from the islands in the south, who had asked the
government for help, said some villagers were about to leave
their homes when the drinking water had begun to be mixed
with salt water. Others went far to fetch water. One reason
for the acute water shortage was that it had not rained for
a long time. The government helped the local authorities to
find water, and in collaboration with the Australian
experts, a long-term solution would also be found.
Researchers from the National University of Australia
started developing a water resource policy for Kiribati
during the year.
In June, the authorities launched a national campaign to
stop the spread of tuberculosis. In 2008, Kiribati had
registered the most tuberculosis cases in the Pacific
region, 176, and the spread of infection increased in 2009.
A political conflict arose in July on the island of
Maiana. The island's chief minister demanded that a new
election be held and invited the members of the local
parliament to resign. However, the mayor and some of the
members refused and turned to the Supreme Court, which ruled
that the chief council was not entitled to dissolve the
democratically elected parliament. Nevertheless, the Council
continued to demand that Parliament resign. Later, the
mayor's residence was burned down and a man died, which
resulted in the members still resigning. In August, the
Environment Minister resigned in protest against the
government intervening too late in the conflict.
In September, governments in Kiribati and the United
States signed an agreement to work together to manage two of
the world's largest marine protection areas, which are close
to each other. It is about the Papahānaumokuākea Marine Park
in Hawaii and the Phoenix Islands in Kiribati. Together, the
two marine parks make up a quarter of the world's marine
In November, Kiribati, along with ten other Pacific
Islander nations, demanded that the UN adopt a legally
binding agreement at the Copenhagen climate summit in
December. The group's spokesman, Palau's UN ambassador
Stuart Beck, said before the UN General Assembly that only a
binding climate agreement can save low-lying countries such
as Kiribati, the Marshall Islands and Tuvalu. After the
climate meeting, President Anote Tong expressed his great
disappointment that it was not a binding UN document signed
by all countries. Anote Tong asked if it makes any sense at
all for international negotiations because "we seem to
continue to think in nationalist terms without regard to the
price that other countries may pay".