Facing climate change: Panama’s indigenous communities prepare for relocation

Around 300 families of the Guna ethnic group were forced to leave Gardi Sugdub, a small island off the coast of Panama: "The sea is eating the land under our houses". A fate that according to the Associated Press would be similar to that looming over coastal areas of Mexico, New Zealand and also Italy

Gradually, they gathered their belongings and departed, leaving behind the essence of lived experiences. From a small island off the Caribbean coast of Panama, approximately 300 families find themselves compelled to brace for a dramatic change: generations of Guna, an indigenous population raised in Gardi Sugdub, a life intertwined with the sea and tourism, now must relocate to the mainland.

The rising Waters

“The sea offers no reprieve; it relentlessly rises, poised to engulf everything,” remarks an official from the Associated Press (AP), hinting at a fate that may echo in our own regions. We may all become ‘climate refugees‘.

A prelude to mass migration

This community of Gardi Sugdub represents merely the vanguard among the 63 coastal communities lining the Caribbean and Pacific shores of Panama, anticipated by government officials and scientists to be compelled to relocate due to rising sea levels in the coming decades.

Global patterns of displacement

Last year, residents of a small coastal community in Mexico made a similar inland exodus as storms persistently washed away their homes. A parallel scenario looms for the lagoon city of Venice, Italy, and select coastal communities in New Zealand, according to the candid projections of the Associated Press.

Relocation efforts

In Panama, the relocation initiative entails resettling individuals in a new enclave characterized by cement homes laid out on a grid of asphalted roads. A mere eight-minute boat ride from the idyllic island to the mainland, yet for many of those relocating, it feels akin to leaving behind a significant portion of their lives.

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