THE increase in thefts of steel manhole lids has forced the Water Authority of Fiji to introduce covers that cannot be easily removed.
WAF spokeswoman Fulori Turaga said the new covers were not cheap but necessary.
The fibre lids will cost WAF between $280 to $300 each.
"We are trying our very best to at least replace half of the lids by the end of the year. We will continue with our replacement program next year," said Ms Turaga.
After a tour with the media around Lautoka yesterday, she said there were about 7000 sewerage manholes in Lautoka alone.
"From the 7000 manholes, we've replaced about 140 lids. We can confirm that there is still a lot of work to be done in terms of permanently addressing this issue."
Ms Turaga said the missing manhole lids could pose a danger to humans because of its environmental impacts
"It can make life discomforting for anyone, especially for those living near these manholes. The stench can become unbearable."
For these reasons, WAF is urging members of the community to work with them in ensuring that these lids are not removed.
Once removed the exposed manhole becomes a dumping ground for rubbish and other debris like discarded tyres.
"From our inspection this morning, we can confirm that there were objects such as used tyres, cement slabs, plastic and garbage bags, plastic bottles dumped into our manholes," said Ms Turaga. "Now, if this continues to happen, all this rubbish will accumulate and block the system."
She said blockages would cause overflows.
"This was evident with the case of the manhole at the Children's Park near the Lautoka Hospital."
"And once there is an overflow, the environment (grass, soil and nearby trees) will definitely be affected and will wither away slowly."
"It is important that customers understand that once two or three manholes are blocked, the other manholes will be affected too as they are all linked. So it is important that customers take ownership in protecting and maintaining our sewerage manholes."
WAF commended the Commissioner Western Commander Joeli Cawaki's decision to suspend all scrap metal licences in the Western Division.
Ms Turaga urged the public to report to police or WAF if they know someone who was removing lids.
"We also urge members of the public to please respect properties of WAF as they are there for health and safety reasons that will benefit everyone," she said.