Today the Bikini Atoll Nuclear Test Site was inscribed on the World Heritage List.
The Bikini Atoll was the site of atomic weapons testing during the early days of the Cold War. Between 1946 and 1954, 67 nuclear test were carried out in the Marshall Islands, 23 of them in Bikini. This equates 7000 times the force of the Hiroshima bomb.
“The people of Bikini were removed from their island in March 1946 prior to the commencement of the first tests, on the understanding that this was their sacrifice ‘for the good of mankind and to end all world wars.” Mayor of Bikini Atoll, Alson Kelen, who travelled to Brasilia to present at the World Heritage Committee said “We left reluctantly and with great sadness- as our beautiful island became the location of the greatest destruction humankind is capable of, and we lost our way of life.”
“Inscription of Bikini Atoll Nuclear Test Site is an opportunity for the dramatic events that occurred to be remembered. The experience of nuclear testing, the displacement of our people from our homeland and the devastating contamination of our country is a story that has been repeated in many places around the world. As a World Heritage site, Bikini Atoll will forever tell the story of this period for human history,” said Kelen.
It seems that finally, the sacrifice of the Bikinians is recognised by the world. Bikini Atoll has been inscribed today on the prestigious World Heritage List by the 34th meeting of the World Heritage Committee in Brazil.
“Bikini Atoll stands as a monument and memorial to the dawn of the nuclear age,” says Nicole Baker, an Australian who has worked on developing this nomination with the Government of the Marshall Islands over the past 5 years.
“At first glance Bikini looks like the quintessential tropical paradise, an image beloved by our modern culture as a place of peace and simplicity. However, when we look closer, we see the scars of the craters and the bunkers and equipment. Now you can see nature recovering – the vegetation is coming back, the birds are coming back and the coral reef is very healthy with an abundance of fish and an amazing population of sharks. It is this evolving landscape that memorialises the vast and terrible power of nuclear weapons and their interaction with nature.”
Jack Niedenthal, a spokesperson for the people of Bikini, says it is now safe to walk on the islands and to stay there for extended periods of time. “People can go and stay there for as long as they want – there’s no problem with gamma radiation – the reason that people aren’t living there now is that there is still cesium-137 in the soil, and this gets into the food crops, so people can’t eat food grown on land.”
Bikini Atoll is the first World Heritage site for the Marshall Islands
For information about Bikini Atoll, please contact:
Bikini Atoll Liaison Officer
Majuro, Marshall Islands
Mayor of the People of Bikini
For further information about the World Heritage inscription process and the heritage values of Bikini Atoll, please contact Nicole Baker.