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Posted On : 11 Oct, 2017  Source : PTI  Place : Bengaluru 
Sinking Kiribati looking to India for help: former prez
 Former Kiribati president Anote Tong has said he is looking to India for technological assistance to save the tiny island nation from sinking due to global warming.

"India has the technology and skill to save our island nation from sinking due to climate change. I would be very happy to write a letter to your Prime Minister (Narendra Modi) and meet him too," he told PTI here.

The island nation comprising 33 atolls (ring-shaped islands formed by corals) and one raised island in the Pacific Ocean has a population of over 110,000. It is gradually sinking as sea levels rise across the world at 3.4 millimetres per year.

Tong was here to attend the "Roundglass Samsara Festival", a global environment and sustainability event organised by Grammy Award winner Ricky Kej in the city recently.

He said Modi had resulted in him changing his perception on India's stand on climate change when he met him during one of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summits.

"I had met your current prime minister. We had a meeting with him before the Paris Climate Change Accord. It was a wonderful one. He changed my perception of the position of India because he was very positive. He has maintained it ever since," Tong said.

Modi is a very practical leader of the world and India can make a contribution to train Kiribati's people to develop skills of international standards to earn their livelihood in whichever country they would want to migrate to, he said.

"I have been advocating the concept of 'migration with dignity' for I know, many of my people will not stay in Kiribati. So, this concept is something which would provide training to our people to earn their livelihood if they want to migrate or prefer to stay on in the island," he said.

About a solution to save his nation, Tong said he wanted to create new land masses through dredging and create a new society to help Kiribati sustain itself economically.

"Kiribati now earns just 10 per cent of its revenue from fishing. We get fees from Japan, the US, Taiwan and a few European countries, and that is too meagre," he said.

"If we could mop up 30 to 40 per cent revenue from fishing, we can raise one billion dollars, which will be enough to sustain our country economically," he added.

Tong said he wanted his country to tie up with Iceland to manage the fishing industry.

He said he began to work on the concept of "migration with dignity" after he did not find any solution coming from international fora, though they acknowledged his country's problem.

"Despite what happened in Paris, there was still no solution and hence I realised it is very difficult to get international help. Many countries strongly expressed support, but nothing concrete materialised. Therefore, I developed on the concept of migration with dignity," he said.

Tong also alleged that the present Kiribati government was playing politics and hadn't understood the gravity of the problem and was hoping for an international solution, which was very difficult to get.