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Fiji Time: 11:05 PM on Thursday 24 April

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Struggle for water

Repeka Nasiko
Saturday, January 11, 2014

NESTLED in the rough terrain of Koronubu in Ba, Naboutolu settlement is just like any other rural setting in the greater western area covered in greenery and surrounded by sugarcane fields.

It features the everyday struggles consistent with a rural settlement, the most prominent being the hardships faced when one doesn't have access to a clean and safe water source.

Like neighbouring Qerelevu and Nakavika, the community depends on a nearby waterway that links up to the Ba river.

With about 120 households living in this area, the river is the centre of life for these communities.

Each morning the residents cart water using tractors, bullocks, horses and sheer human power to make the 20-minute walk to the water source, trekking through densely overgrown brush and a steep path.

They use the water to bathe and wash their clothes, and others fill containers to take home for other household needs.

A team from this newspaper joined a group of farmers as they made the trek to the waterway earlier this week.

It was a rough ride, so one can imagine how tough and strenuous the chore is for those who make the journey on foot.

We reached the end of the trail and found the water was used for basically everything, even the occasional farm animal stopped by to have a drink or cool off.

A resident of more than 50 years, Shiu "George" Ram Sharma says clean water is a new concept for the residents.

"Who has the time to boil water from the river?" said Mr Sharma.

"We've lived for so long using the river in whatever condition it's in.

"We have no other choice."

He said some have survived on wells and boreholes but the majority in the community had been carting water from the river all their lives.

Salanieta Sabina said during the dry season, the river water became dirty.

"We have to still drink that water even though it's dirty," she said.

"Animals can be standing in water or drinking up river and we are further down, and even then we don't have a choice but to use the water."

Ms Sabina said while illnesses were bound to occur, the residents had gotten used to the lifestyle.

"I had a relative who became sick and later we found out that he had typhoid.

"But for many of us who've have been here for more than 20 years, we've become used to it. Dirty or not, we still drink it."

Recently, residents at the three settlements met Ba advisory councillor Viam Pillay, who said they expressed their grievances over the constant water problems.

"We have been having meetings and I have submitted a report to the government about the help these people need," he said.

"I hope the government will help them because they really need it."