From: Associated Press
Published January 10, 2005 12:00 AM

Small Island Nations Appeal for Help to Deal with Environmental and Economic Woes

PORT LOUIS, Mauritius — Small island nations need help dealing with environmental and economic woes that are threatening their survival, a senior official said Monday.


The world should not forget helping the vulnerable island nations even as it rushes aid to people affected by last month's tsunami that hit the Indian Ocean, Prime Minister Paul Berenger told a United Nations conference on the future of small island developing states.


"While every effort should be made to bring most urgent assistance to the victims of such disasters, we should not lose sight of other important aspects of the development of (small islands)," Berenger said.


The five-day conference is expected to press the international community to help island nations in the Caribbean, Pacific and Indian Ocean deal with threats from tsunamis, rising sea levels, falling development aid, mounting trade loses and HIV/AIDS.


Traditional donors have cut annual development aid to small island nations from US$2.3 billion (euro1.74 billion) to US$1.7 billion (euro1.29 billion) over the last decade, according to U.N. figures.


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The nations suffered heavy loses when their traditional exports were hit after preferential arrangements were dismantled under agreed rules of the World Trade Organization. Export revenues from bananas in St. Lucia dropped to US$21.7 million in 2002 from US$46.5 million in 1996.


More than 2,000 participants, including some 20 heads of state, from island nations, their traditional donors and other countries are expected to attend the conference. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan is scheduled to address the meeting on Jan. 13.


The health and wealth of small island nations is threatened by climate change and rising sea levels, the U.N. environmental agency said in reports released last week.


Other threats include pollution and discharge by ships in the Caribbean, overfishing in the Pacific and the rising tide of household and other forms of waste on the Atlantic and Indian Ocean islands, the reports said.


Some small islands, such as the Comoros in the Indian Ocean, are also facing serious freshwater shortages partly as a result of contamination and over-exploitation.


Unique animal and plant species in the islands are also threatened by developments for farming and construction as well as the introduction of alien, invasive species from other parts of the world. Dominica and Puerto Rico in the Caribbean are small islands with high levels of potentially damaging 'invaders,' the reports said.


Source: Associated Press


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