Cultural sustainability is the foundation on which islands prepare for their present and futures (photo credit: www.visityap.com)
Yap, or Wa′ab, is situated in the Caroline Islands of the western Pacific Ocean, known as the Federated States of Micronesia. Yap encompasses four separate islands: Yap Island proper (MarbaQ),Tamil/Gagil, Maaq, and Rumung. They are contiguous though separated by water and are surrounded by a common coral reef. Formed from an uplift of the Philippine Sea Plate, they are referred to as “high” islands as opposed to atolls. The land is mostly rolling hills densely vegetated. Mangrove swamps line much of the shore. Yap’s indigenous cultures and traditions are strong compared to other states in Micronesia. The population is estimated around 11,500 with a total land area of 102 km2 (39 sq mi).
Pangaeon, in collaboration with Transnational Associates’ director, Mr. Howard Schirmer, and funded by the Asian Development Bank, prepared a comprehensive strategic plan for the islands. The document outlined a sustainable development roadmap that set goals, methods, and metrics that were achievable, affordable, and in balance with their rich culture and heritage.
Unfortunately, in one day, an island’s cultural identity and livelihood can vanish or reduce its ability to fully recover. Super Typhoon Maysak slammed directly into the outlying atolls of Faia and Ulithi in Yap in March 2015. Winds reached 250-300 kilometers per hour.
Photos by Brad Holland
“It’s basically very bad,” says the chief of Ulithi, “We’re looking at having problems with food supplies, problems in the next few weeks, as most of the local crops and food sources have been very badly affected.”
With sustained winds at 160 mph, Maysak damaged nearly everything on the atoll except concrete structures, meaning vital vegetation and supplies were wrecked during the storm, according to the AFP.
“Because Ulithi is just a little above sea level, in some areas the sea rose, destroying crops and the soil. It will take time to desalinate the soil — approximately a year until the crops can be re-planted,” Pacific Maritime Association administrator Melinda Espinosa told the AFP.
Guampdn.com reports that 95% of the tin houses in Chuuk State were destroyed by the storm. Thousands of residents have been displaced.
“You can give them a new house, put a roof over their head, but nothing’s growing,” Mr Brad Holland said.
“There’s nothing that says they’re going to have enough fish, turtles, birds and stuff to live off and sustain themselves, and how long it’s going to be until that ecosystem recovers and people are able to rely on it is unknown. That’s the hard part.”
GUARDIAN INTEGRATORS RESPONSE
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