The Pacific atoll nations – Kiribati, Tuvalu, and the Republic of Marshall Islands – have largely and commendably retained their pristine, peaceful and culturally-rich locales.

Their small size and distance from intensely developed islands protects local people from pandemics and encroaching modernity that often erodes otherwise strong indigenous socio-cultural institutions, relations and networks of support.

However, the geographic distance also creates issues.

This is perhaps best exemplified in Kiribati – an atoll nation straddling the equator and made up of 33 islands spread across three island groups: the Gilbert Islands, Phoenix Islands and Line Islands.

These are located over a vast area equivalent to approximately 3.5 million square kilometers.

The immense distance between islands creates challenges of accessing resources, economic opportunities and information, as well as services such as justice, health, education, communication, transportation, agricultural and fisheries inputs, and timely climate-induced disaster relief responses.

A version of this article appears in the print on June 9, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.