SOME Bua chiefs are concerned at cofferdams constructed under bridges along the Dreketi-Nabouwalu Highway, saying these have affected the villagers' source of food.
Secretary of the Bose vanua ko Bua, Ratu Orisi Baleitavea, said the cofferdams had affected food supply of the villagers who depended on the river for their livelihood.
"We appreciate the road upgrading work as it is part of development in our province but we would like to ask the contractors to construct our roads in such a way that they will not affect the people's livelihood," he said.
"The villagers in the areas of Nakadrudru, Dama and Nasarawaqa depend on these rivers for income and food supply."
Members of the Bua Urban Youths Network (BUY) are disappointed at the way the contractors have worked along the highway.
Group co-ordinator Filomena Tuivanualevu said reports and concerns received from relatives in villages situated along these rivers indicated that no consultation was done.
"This is unacceptable given that these rivers are feeding grounds and transports routes for villages and communities that have lived there for decades," she said.
"Other methods that take into consideration minimising damage and harm to the ecosystem should have been utilised.
"We agree that development must take place in this province but it should be done in a manner that respects and includes the communities and their young people as well as prioritises the protection of the local ecosystem and environment."
China Railway First Group spokesman Donald Singh said they were aware of the situation and had explained to the authorities concerned.
"The cofferdam is the only way to construct the bridge and we have taken some measures to avoid negative effects," he said.
"Measures taken include shrinking the size of the cofferdam, clearing the remnant part of the river to keep enough space for fish and boats, increasing erosion protection using rock protection and having sandbags and geotextile sheets to stop the soil being washed away."
Mr Singh said they had also covered the top of the cofferdam at Nakadrudru with striped fabric.
"Now that the cofferdam and its protection works have been completed, the effects are going to be as little as possible."