Tuvalu's Funafuti gains 8% more usable land after pits filled
Tuvalu's main island, Funafuti, has gained an extra eight percent of land after the completion of a project to fill in so-called "borrow pits" from the Second World War.
Tuvalu's main island, Funafuti, has gained an extra eight percent of usable land after the completion of a project to fill in so-called "borrow pits" from the Second World War.
The pits, which had become full of rubbish and stagnant water, were created by the United States military using the coral to build an airfield on the atoll in the 1940s.
The newly-appointed New Zealand High Commissioner to Tuvalu, Linda Te Puni, who will be based in Wellington, told Don Wiseman about the completion of the New Zealand and European Union-funded project.
LINDA TE PUNI: They were created during World War II. As material was taken from the land, it was excavated to build the international runway, there was just no available material anywhere else basically. These significant pits were dug, leaving these sort of holes everywhere around the main islet of Fongafale, used to build an international runway and ever since then have been left like that and there has been issue with them variously filling up with rubbish and sewage and run-off from pig pens and this kind of thing. There has been a real health and environmental concern around them, apart from fact that it was a significant amount of Fongafale's very small land area. The actual area that has now been remediated from these borrow pits represent eight percent of that land. It is a significant investment and rehabilitation really of land really for Tuvalu.
DON WISEMAN: Filling them in, so they needed the material to build the airstrip, so where did you get the material from?
LTP: What happened was that sand was dredged from the lagoon. There was a barge put on the lagoon and sand was dredged up and pumped across to fill the holes. As I understand it, sand shifts and moves around a lot there so it wasn't that this was causing any erosion in anyway or what have you. Using the material that was already there in a way was not only a cheaper option but from a bio-security perspective was also the most appropriate way of doing it. Not only were they filled to a level to bring them up to where they had been but there was some compensation made to account for whether there would be king tides and even looking further ahead to sea-level rise and that sort of thing to try and give a bit of a margin and allow for quite a significant level above current sea levels.
DW: I guess the problem with sand is that it has a habit of moving.
LTP: As I say, it has been built up to slightly higher levels and I also understand there is a small stockpile also that was dredged, that was taken at the time this was done. That is actually being used to provide some areas and sandpits for various primary schools and fill in some other swampy areas and provide volleyball courts and that sort of thing. I think there is still some margin there for top-ups if required.
DW: Is it going to be cultivatable?
LTP: Yes it will be plantable with things that you would normally expect to grow in that kind of environment, whether it be coconut trees or other vegetation or that sort of thing. I don't know about other food crops however.
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