Intended for healthcare professionals

Education And Debate

French Polynesia: a nuclear paradise in the Pacific

BMJ 1995; 311 doi: (Published 19 August 1995) Cite this as: BMJ 1995;311:497
  1. Hans Veeken, public health consultant hq@amsterdam.msf.orga
  1. aMedecins Sans Frontieres Netherlands, PO Box 10014, 1001 EA Amsterdam, Netherlandss
  • Accepted 19 August 1995

The land is like our mother. People come from the land. We must always respect our mother, not explode bombs in her belly Our good way of life comes from the land. Destruction of land will lead to destruction of life. JACQUES IHORAI, president, Evangelical Church of French Polynesia

“The nuclear testing ruined the country,” says a French doctor. We met on the docks of Tahiti, watching Greenpeace's ship, Rainbow Warrior, depart for the atoll of Mururoa. “Not only by contamination of the environment with nuclear fallout or leakage of the residue in the bottom of the atoll, but far more by disrupting the social harmony of the country,” he continues. “The country was self sufficient before the testing started; people subsisted on farming and fishing. Nowadays the state is entirely dependent on France. Imports exceed exports tenfold; it is an artificial state: approximately 15% of the population work as civil servants. Migration, loss of cultural values, degradation of agriculture, change in eating habits, prostitution, alcoholism, and mental illnesses are all the result of this. This country is addicted to France. Since the moratorium on the testing, the people have been forced to think of a future without France. Resuming the testing is like giving an addict who recently stopped using drugs another shot. France has the obligation to leave behind a state that is self sufficient and not a wreck with a long term legacy of nuclear waste. I can show you files of patients who died of radiation, but I guess you are more interested in public health aspects. Well, the cancer register you might look for doesn't exist: not kept, or hidden, who knows? Anyway, inaccessible for us. Don't forget that until 1984 most practising doctors here were military people. It is no coincidence that the doctor …

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