Cultural Museum in Bikenibeu
Map of the Tarawa atoll
|Island group||Gilbert Islands|
|• Total||1.81 km2 (0.70 sq mi)|
|• Density||3,600/km2 (9,400/sq mi)|
Bikenibeu is a settlement in Kiribati. It is located close to the southeastern corner of the Tarawa atoll, part of the island country of Kiribati. It is part of a nearly continuous chain of settlements along the islands of South Tarawa, which are now linked by causeways. The low-lying atoll is vulnerable to sea level rise. Rapid population growth has caused some environmental problems. Kiribati's main government high school, King George V and Elaine Bernachi School, is located in Bikenibeu, as well as the Ministries of Environment and Education.
Bikenibeu is one of the three main urban centres in South Tarawa, the others being Betio and Teaoraereke. Starting in 1963, causeways began to be built between the islands of the atoll to make communications easier. The causeways connected Bairiki to Bikenibeu by 1963, and extended from Bikenibeu to Bonriki by 1964, when flights began from the new airport to Fiji.
The island has been built from sediments from the lagoon.
Bikenibeu is an average of 3.25 metres (10.7 ft) above sea level on the ocean side, and 2.38 metres (7 ft 10 in) at the lagoon side. Tidal flats on the ocean side extend for 160 metres (520 ft).
ACLR (Accelerated Sea-Level Rise) is a serious concern. In a scenario where a sea level rise of .5 metres (1 ft 8 in) occurs, 71% of Bikenibeu would be flooded by a spring high tide. With a rise of .95 metres (3 ft 1 in) the tide would flood the entire island.
As of 2000, the lagoon away from the shore was still relatively free of human contaminants. However, the causeways linking the islands of South Tarawa have contributed to increasing pollution in the lagoon.
The coral reefs provide natural protection to the coastline, important if sea levels rise. A 2000 report noted large numbers of dead corals on the reef flats on the ocean side, apparently due to past discharges of sewerage. The causeways and land reclamation have also affected the reef environment.
In 1996, there were 4,885 people living on Bikenibeu island, with an area of 1.81 square kilometres (0.70 sq mi).
As of 2005, the population was 6,170, living in 831 households.
By 2010, the population had grown to 6,568.
In 1953, the decision was made to build facilities for the medical and education departments at Bikenibeu.
A permanent hospital was built at Bikenibeu in 1956.
Several ministries are based in the settlement. These include the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Environment, Lands and Agricultural Development. The Ministry of Health and the nursing school are now housed in a new hospital in the neighbouring village of Nawerewere that was built in 1991 with aid from Japan. This is the country's main hospital for medicine, surgery and anaesthetics, paediatrics, obstetrics and gynaecology, and psychiatry, and includes a laboratory, pharmacy and x-ray facility. The general hospital has 160 beds. There is also a dental clinic.
Also in the late 1950s, the Tarawa Teacher's College began to operate in Bikenibeu.
Education in Kiribati is compulsory and free from age six to fourteen (year 9).
Church missions provide secondary education for year 10–13 pupils who fail to be admitted to KGV/EBS.
Bahá'í preachers came to Kiribati in 1954, setting up their first centre in Abaiang. The Bahá'í Faith was recognised as a legal religion in 1955. The Bahá'ís moved to Bikenibeu in 1957, where they established a centre and housing for resident or travelling teachers. In 1967, the Kiribati Bahá'is set up an independent National Spiritual Assembly with headquarters in Bikenibeu. The Bahá'í Faith in Kiribati claimed 4,000 members in 1985.
There is also a Catholic church dedicated to Saint Peter, and a number of smaller Catholic and Protestant churches and maneaba.
Located on the lagoon side of the island, Otintaai is the only hotel in Bikenibeu with modern amenities.
Bikenibeu Post Office opened on 1 July 1958.
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