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Tonga facing critical drought conditions

Wednesday 20 May 2015 | Published in Regional


NUKU‘ALOFA – The Tonga Metservice says it’s critical for Tonga’s smaller islands that the effects of an ongoing drought are mitigated.

Tonga is coming into its dry season, but has already been experiencing drought conditions for eight months.

The director of Meteorology in Tonga, Ofa Faanunu, told Radio New Zealand that last year 80 per cent of squash and pumpkin crops were destroyed by the drought.

He says water also had to be shipped to Ha’apai and Vava’u islands.

“A lot of livelihoods depend on rainfall. A lot of our smaller islands don’t have ground water and depend entirely on rain water,” Faanunu said.

“So if for the next three months we continue to have drier than normal conditions, it will be critical for our smaller islands.”

The secretary general for the Tonga Red Cross Society, Sione Tuamoefolau, says Eua island, with a population of about 7000 people, is currently suffering the most from the dry weather.

“The most concern island at the moment is Eua. Their town water is not working at all. A lot of water catchment is run out at the moment. But in Nukualofa also we can see the changes of the weather now, that are a little bit dry now.”

A resident on Eua, Leakina Taufa, says they rely on rain fall for their water, and the problem they’re dealing with is much less rain fall.

She says they’ve learnt to use their water wisely, on the days that they can get it.

“Sometimes we get water two days a week. Our shower, it doesn’t work anymore, it hasn’t worked for about two months now. So, we only use our pipe, just to collect water for cooking, and bath and everything. But sometimes there’s no water for a week.”

She says when there’s no water from the pipelines, they go to Water Board staff so they can be directed to where they can go to fill water bottles and containers.

Meteorologist Faanunu says the national emergency management committee met last week, and a working group has been set up to respond to the conditions.

“We’ve recorded the driest April in our records here in Tongatapu. With the forecast as it is, we are taking precautions and trying to come up with measures and trying to mitigate the effects of this drought, if it will continue.”

He says they are asking the public to collect as much rain water as possible when it does rain, and above all, to not be wasteful with water.