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Tuvalu: Beneath the Rising Tide

Sean Gallagher | Tuvalu

A young boy swims in a flooded area near the airport runway, in downtown Funafuti. Parts of the island flood at this time of the year due to the 'king tides'. The king tides are seasonal and are characterised by very high water levels in the surrounding ocean. At this time of year the waves inundate the coastline but also water seeps up through the ground which is made of porous coral. This natural phenomenon is particularly serious for Tuvalu, a low-lying atoll island nation, whose highest point is only a few metres above sea level. As sea levels rise, the king tides regularly flood parts of the island and will likely increase in severity in the future, potentially making large parts of the nation uninhabitable.

Tuvalu is on the front line of climate change.

This unique country is made up of a series of nine islands and coral atolls totalling only 26 square kilometres in land area, spread out near the equator in the western Pacific Ocean.

With an average elevation of only one meter above sea level, the United Nations has predicted that it may be the first nation to disappear, as a result of rising sea levels.

The fourth smallest country in the world and one of the least visited, the plight of Tuvalu’s 11,000 residents has been overlooked and underreported.

Each year, seasonal ‘king tides’ inundate the islands of Tuvalu, severely flooding large swathes of the country between the months of January and March.

Additionally, the erosion of land, saltwater encroachment during storm surges and
difficulties with waste management, all
exacerbate the problems Tuvalu faces.

Sean Gallagher travelled to Tuvalu in March 2019 to document the environmental challenges the country currently faces. This is the latest chapter in his long-term work chronicling the effects of climate change in the Asia-Pacific region.

sean@gallagher-photo.com

http://gallagher-photo.com

 

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