Panama's first climate change displaced prepare to leave ancestral home

Some 1,200 members of a Panamanian Indigenous community, their island home threatened by rising sea levels, received new government-sponsored homes on the mainland Wednesday.

The soon-to-be former inhabitants of the island of Carti Sugtupu are the first people in Panama to be displaced by climate change.

Caught between nostalgia and hope for a better future, the Carti Sugtupu inhabitants are trading their ancestral home for the newly-built settlement of Nuevo Carti (New Carti) in the Guna Yala Indigenous region of Panama's Caribbean coast.

"I am excited. The houses are beautiful. They are small, but very comfortable," Vidalma Yanez, 57, told AFP outside her new home.

On the island -- the size of five football fields -- the community lived in rudimentary dirt-floor houses crammed together, some jutting out into the sea on stilts.

They had no drinking water, sanitation or reliable electricity and lived off fishing, the harvesting of starchy crops like cassava and plantain, traditional textile production, and some tourism.

Their homes flooded on a regular basis, and experts warned that rising sea levels would soon make life even more uncomfortable.

Scientists say climate change is causing sea levels to rise, mainly due to meltwater from warming glaciers and ice sheets.

"The climate crisis that the world is experiencing... has forced us here in Panama to move (the population) from the island to this urban development of about 300 homes," President Laurentino Cortizo said Wednesday as he presented house keys to a first beneficiary family.

Planting flowers

(AFP)


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