Belep

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Belep
Belep.PNG
Location of the commune (in red) within New Caledonia
Location of Belep
Coordinates: 19°45′00″S163°40′00″E / 19.75°S 163.6667°E / -19.75; 163.6667 Coordinates: 19°45′00″S163°40′00″E / 19.75°S 163.6667°E / -19.75; 163.6667
Country France
Sui generis collectivity New Caledonia
Province North Province
Government
  Mayor Jean-Baptiste Moilou
Area
1
69.5 km2 (26.8 sq mi)
Population
 (2014 census)
843
  Density12/km2 (31/sq mi)
Ethnic distribution
  1996 census Kanaks 94.3%
Mestizos 5.4%
Vanuatuans 0.1%
Tahitians 0.1
Indonesians 0.1%
Time zone UTC+11:00
INSEE/Postal code
98801 /98811
Elevation0–283 m (0–928 ft)
(avg. 20 m or 66 ft)
1 New Caledonia Land Register (DITTT) data, which exclude lakes and ponds larger than 1 km² (0.386 sq mi or 247 acres) as well as the estuaries of rivers.

Belep (sometimes unofficially spelled Bélep) is a commune in the North Province of New Caledonia, an overseas territory of France in the Pacific Ocean. It has almost 900 people living on 70 km2.

The North Province is one of three administrative subdivisions in New Caledonia. It corresponds to the northern and northeastern portion of the New Caledonian mainland.

New Caledonia Overseas territory of France in the southwest Pacific Ocean

New Caledonia is a special collectivity of France, currently governed under the Nouméa Accord, located in the southwest Pacific Ocean, to the south of Vanuatu, about 1,210 km (750 mi) east of Australia and 20,000 km (12,000 mi) from Metropolitan France. The archipelago, part of the Melanesia subregion, includes the main island of Grande Terre, the Loyalty Islands, the Chesterfield Islands, the Belep archipelago, the Isle of Pines, and a few remote islets. The Chesterfield Islands are in the Coral Sea. French people, and especially locals, refer to Grande Terre as Le Caillou.

France Republic in Europe with several non-European regions

France, officially the French Republic, is a country whose territory consists of metropolitan France in Western Europe and several overseas regions and territories. The metropolitan area of France extends from the Mediterranean Sea to the English Channel and the North Sea, and from the Rhine to the Atlantic Ocean. It is bordered by Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany to the northeast, Switzerland and Italy to the east, and Andorra and Spain to the south. The overseas territories include French Guiana in South America and several islands in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans. The country's 18 integral regions span a combined area of 643,801 square kilometres (248,573 sq mi) and a total population of 67.02 million. France is a unitary semi-presidential republic with its capital in Paris, the country's largest city and main cultural and commercial centre. Other major urban areas include Lyon, Marseille, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Lille and Nice.

Contents

The commune's territory is made up of the Belep Islands (also known as the Belep Archipelago), which lie to the north of New Caledonia's mainland. The two principal islands in the Belep Archipelago are Art Island (a.k.a. Aar) and Pott Island fr (a.k.a. Phwoc). The rest of the archipelago consists of the Northern and Southern Daos Islands, and several very small islets.

Art Island is the largest of the Belep Islands archipelago in New Caledonia. It has an area of 53 km². Its chief settlement is Waala, which is also the capital of Belep commune.

Archipelago A group of islands

An archipelago, sometimes called an island group or island chain, is a chain, cluster or collection of islands, or sometimes a sea containing a small number of scattered islands.

Islet Very small island

An islet is a very small island.

The administrative centre of the commune is the settlement of Waala, on Art Island, the largest of the Belep Islands. The local language is Nyêlâyu. [1]

History

The Belep Islands were named after a Kanak chief who settled there in ancient times. A Catholic mission was founded in Belep in 1856 by Pierre Lambert (1822-1903) but only lasted until 1863. The Marists later returned, and another priest Marie-Joseph Dubois (1913-1998), who lived there 1940-1941, wrote a history of Bélep in 1985.

Kanak people indigenous people of New Caledonia

Kanak are the indigenous Melanesian inhabitants of New Caledonia, an overseas collectivity of France in the southwest Pacific. According to the 2014 census, they make up 39.1% of the total population with around 104,000 people.

In 1879, following a widespread Kanak rebellion led by Ataï, some of the insurgents were temporarily moved from Grande Terre to the islands as punishment. The islands were the site of a leper colony between 1892 and 1898 during which time the islanders were exiled to Balade and suffered greatly. On their return, they were not allowed to reoccupy Isle Pott, taken by a colonial copra farmer, monsieur Mary, permitted by government authority. [2] It took the clans until the 1950s to buy it back. [3]

Leper colony

A leper colony, lazarette, leprosorium, or lazar house was historically a place to quarantine people with leprosy. The term lazaretto, which is derived from the biblical figure Saint Lazarus, can refer to quarantine sites, which were at some time also "colonies", or places where people affected by leprosy lived or were sent. Many of the first lazarettes were operated by Christian monastic houses. Leper hospitals exist throughout the world to treat those afflicted with leprosy, especially in Africa, Brazil, China and India.

The standard of living in Belep has risen since the 1950s, in common with other outlying parts of New Caledonia. However traditions and language are strongly maintained, only half the population can speak French, and few residents have any school certificates having only attended until the age of 12. [4] Around 1955, an airstrip was built in Waala and there are flights, but it is the least frequented AirCal route. [5] Passenger boats to Koumac and Poum are irregular. A modern medical clinic, serviced by a French doctor and nurses, was also built. Waala has the only primary school, shops, church, and post office. In 1961, Belep became a commune; its first mayor was elected in 1969. In the 1980s, when the movement for Kanak independence became violent (Les Evènements) some Belema migrated to the Mainland to escape political divisions. [6]

Belep struggles to obtain resources from the territorial government and there is still no schooling beyond primary level (children then have to attend boarding school on Grande Terre, in Poum for example). Settlement, disrupted by events in the 19th century, has concentrated clans in Waala. Alcoholism is a serious problem and there have been violent episodes, including the killing of a clinic staff member in 2003 [7]

In August 2016 a large bushfire ravaged Isle Art.

Economy

The economy is reliant on fishing, the main commercial activity. Around 40% of all registered business are in the fisheries sector. The reef fish Scomberomorus commerson, a mackerel, is caught and over 20 tonnes a year are sold. Scallops (Amusium japonicum balloti) are sold to SAS West Pacific Scallops, an Australian company, destined for Australia and Asia. The scallop trade is supported by the Northern Province and 20% by the clans. It has provided some training and prevented youth from migrating to Grande Terre. [8]

There are small cobalt reserves, exploited unsuccessfully in the 19th century. [9]

Belep has no tourist facilities and no accommodation for visitors.

Commons-logo.svg Media related to Bélep at Wikimedia Commons

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