26 Mar 2012

Once abandoned Marshall Islands atoll could flourish

7:45 am on 26 March 2012

The Mayor of Rongelap Atoll in the Marshall Islands says the atoll, once considered a contaminated ghost town, has huge amounts of potential now it's been declared safe.

Rongelap island was evacuated in 1985 after its inhabitants suffered from lingering health issues as a result of the 1954 Bikini atoll nuclear test, 100 miles away.

The Rongelapese relocated elsewhere in the Marshall Islands but are starting to consider returning after a United-States-funded cleanup and rehabilitation effort.

The mayor James Matayoshi says there are already about 70 people on the island, including workers who are building 40 new homes and says Rongelap has got a lot going for it.

"If you compare Rongelap to the rest of the outer islands in the Republic of the Marshall Islands, there's a huge gap of undeveloped localities as compared to Rongelap and we have all the amenities that you possible can think of and in addition there's a lot of potential opportunities to develop in the future."

James Matayoshi says there is potential to develop a marine industry, tuna farming, and pearl farming.