Constant nuclear testing by the United States in the 1950s has forced inhabitants of Bikini Atoll to demand rehabilitation and a permanent move to the U.S. mainland. A very small community living in the central Pacific region had been forced to move from their houses due to repetitive nuclear testing conducted by the U.S. The resulting change in climate and rising level of water over the years has now left them with no other option than to ask for shelter and protection from the U.S.
Bikini Atoll is a ring-shaped reef and a chain of islands formed of coral. It is a part of Marshall Islands. The atoll comprises of 23 small islands with a total land area of close to four square miles. It surrounds a very deep central lagoon measuring approximately 230 square miles at the northern tip of the Ralik Chain. The mayor of Bikini Atoll, Nishma Jamore, clarified in a statement given to media over the weekend that residents of Bikini Atoll wanted to move to the U.S. Waters of the Pacific Ocean are continuously eroding the scarce land of Kili and Ejit Islands in the very distant archipelago, which is a group of islands, known as Marshall Islands.
Mayor Jamore is the head of a community of about 1,000 inhabitants who had to be shifted almost six decades ago. They have had to endure this life in exile, away from their actual native land of Bikini as it is still considered extremely radioactive and hazardous. Any kind of resettlement on the Bikini Atoll is completely out of question at this moment. Mayor Jamore had discussed the concerns of residents of Bikini Atoll with Esther Kia’aina, the U.S Assistant Secretary of Interior when she visited Majuro, the capital of Marshall Islands earlier this month.
The mayor had also shared grievances of residents of Kili Island who have faced repeated flooding since the year 2012 and said that they had sought help from the government of Marshall Islands. This is why the Bikini Islanders are now demanding a permanent move to the U.S. as a result of nuclear testing carried out by the U.S. At least 24 nuclear bombs were reportedly detonated on the Bikini Atoll by the U.S. in 1950s. This also includes the test of ‘Bravo’, which is the largest hydrogen bomb ever tested by the U.S.
As all inhabitants of the atoll were forced to relocate back then, the place is one of the most inhospitable zones on earth as a result of human activity. Powerless against the changes in atmosphere caused by nuclear testing and incapable of going back to Bikini, the residents are now trying to fight for their very existence and survival. They are facing increased flooding over the years from extremely high and forceful tidal waves as well as storms hitting Kili and Ejit Islands. The residents shared that they have been losing all of their food crops due to high waves washing through the islands. The Marshall Island’s parliament has recently proposed a legislative action called Nitijela. This has heightened tensions in the region and caused grave concerns as passing the law would strip the Bikinians of any ownership or authority over Ejit Island.
Last month saw the most recent flooding of Kili Island at the time of high tides when the island’s airport runway resembled the River Nile, according to the mayor. The flood wreaked havoc on the island and destroyed food crops and houses along with the one mile long airport runway. It has been reported that the runway which is more than eight feet above sea level, had become untraceable underneath saltwater. The Bikini Islanders have therefore demanded for a second time to move to the U.S. as a result of nuclear testing carried out six decades ago.
By Ankur Sinha