On arrival at the Christmas Jetty this morning, there were a couple of white men with impressive belies taking pictures of our ship. They were dressed in workers coveralls, so I guessed they were not the regular fishing-tourists.
Driving my bicycle around Christmas Island I noticed that a lot of development was going on. Until last year, all I saw happening was Kava bars and night clubs popping up in odd places. Now, however, there were construction crews working everywhere along the main (and
only) road. Many shops now offer different services, like the business that is specialized in IT equipment. Heck, the post office now sells postcards “with greetings from Kiritimati”. The additional 0,75ct postal stamp shows a luxurious cruise vessel, the one that shows up once or twice a year off the coast of Fanning Island.
Soon I ran into James, a tall red bearded guy with a broad rimmed hat.
He is one of the project managers of a foreign investment project from the Australian and New Zealand government. He told me that there are basically two projects in progress: Energy and Water.
The Energy project involves the implementation of a new power-grid with public lighting along the main road. The four generators that are currently supplying the island of electricity will be replaced by one bigger (more efficient) diesel generator.
The Water project entails the improvement of the water distribution network. The ducts that now distribute the fresh water from the island’s wells are always leaking so that they are hardly being used.
Water trucks are continuously filling up water storage tanks at people’s houses.
Besides the fore mentioned initiative of postcards, I have difficulties in embracing these new developments. In my modest opinion, the two foreign-funded projects missed their targets. Instead of taking this unique opportunity to implement solar energy in the biggest self-sufficient atoll in the world, one chose to opt for ancient fossil fuel burning technology. In the case of water supply, I think this was the right time for building a plant for desalination of pristine ocean water. The island’s fresh water wells are severely threatened because of the rising sea water level.
Although I encourage any aid to this proud Republic of the Kiribati, I hope that the future government will be courageous enough to find better and more sustainable solutions for the (many) problems that this small country faces. Or is it my perspective that is prejudiced because I am involved in an operation that is (literally) driven by wind. And since the beginning of this year we are successfully making our own supply of fresh water through reverse osmosis.
Today, Wednesday in Kiribati time zone, we will be loading passengers for our last run along the outer islands of the group. We will reach Fanning Island tomorrow evening and Washington Island the day after.