An elder laments about loss of land in Papua New Guinea: ‘Climate change will not help bring my village back’

Illustration by Emily Whang

By Leila Parina and NextGenRadio Staff

Nanai Ariavogo is a former councilor of Gabagaba village in Papua New Guinea.  As a leader, he’s had to help the residents get through the storms and droughts caused by numerous disasters. Today, he’s retired and lives a simple life in the village while also grappling with how much has changed because of the climate crisis. 

Listen to Nanai Ariavogo’s story

“Climate change will not help bring my village back. But I am just hopeful that by the good grace of our Lord, my village could have gone back to the very first time when I came to know about this world.”

Nanai Ariavogo

Photo by Leila Parina

The 64-year-old Ariavogo, a former architectural draftsman, has seen firsthand the impacts of climate change on his coastal village. Mangroves disappeared after the riverbanks opened up, flooding is more frequent, and storms and rough seas wash away gravel and sand from beneath the village. The beachfront is being pushed back.

“My village is one of those villages that stands on stilts and people have come to accustomed living over the water,” he says. Many residents are left with no options and are forced to adapt. 

Nanai Ariavogo overlooks the coastal village of Gabagaba where he grew up. He provided guidance and leadership to its residents. Photo by Leila Parina

When residents were hit hard by heavy rain that lasted three days and caused flooding in 2016 the community came together to put up a sea wall at one church to withstand more water. 

Ariavogo turns to his faith hoping that one day more can be done to directly address the rising tide that he says both “men and the weather” are responsible for. 

A Google Earth overview of Gabagaba village.
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By Leila Parina

Leila Parina is a final year student at the University of the South Pacific. She majors in sociology and journalism. She is from the coastal part of Papua New Guinea. Parina loves the ocean and the natural environment of the Pacific Islands. She is passionate about climate justice and social justice and tries to get involved with those important causes. She enjoys listening to K-pop and watching Korean dramas in her spare time.

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