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Rakiraki to Sigatoka

Margaret Wise Information Collected By Felix Chaudhary, Repeka Nasiko, Shayal Devi, Jai Prasad And Baljeet Singh
Saturday, July 05, 2014

A SURVEY of Western Viti Levu's peri-urban areas found problems common to almost all communities in the division. Everybody was happy with the government's education initiatives, nobody was pleased with the food prices, and infrastructural development was high on their wish list as bad roads meant no public transport, a long walk or high transportation costs.

Along the main highway — from Rakiraki to Sigatoka — many settlements can be found using pumps to draw water from shallow groundwater sources.

Some have access to clean sources but the not so lucky ones are stuck with dirty and in some cases, salty water.

Read about some of the issues they face:

AT 5am every morning a group of about 20 school children from the Buabua and Paipai area in Lautoka begin their 8-kilometre walk to the nearest bus stop at Qalitu.

Buses won't service the area because of a damaged bridge and poor road conditions.

The settlements are about 10km inland from a turnoff located about 3km away from the Ba end of the Sugar City.

The earliest bus arrives at 6am followed by a second one at 7.30am. Those who are late have to wait for the 8am bus.

Farmer Faizal Ali said the bridge was damaged in the floods of 2009 and 2012 and a promise made to fix the bridge had still not been fulfilled.

Viva Lotawa said her home was the last house in Buabua and her 24-year-old daughter walked the same route through her years in school.

The market vendor said she would return from school at 8pm.

It was a financial struggle placing her son at boarding school but she persisted because she didn't want his school work affected.

Buabua, Paipai, Vakabuli and Vitogo, Lautoka

Water: Some have piped water supply while others depend on boreholes which cannot be relied on during the dry season. Residents also use nearby creeks.

Road and Transport: A lot of families have moved closer to town because of transportation problems and costs. Complaints that roads are "graded and not gravelled" and too narrow for cane trucks.

Food prices: Feel that food prices are high but transport costs are unbearably higher. Residents who miss the bus pay $25 in carrier hire. Sick and pregnant residents who cannot afford transportation costs have no choice but to walk.

Land: There is a feeling that people don't want to farm anymore because of the costs involved. Farmers are concerned about the 30-year lease terms.

Neglect: Those involved in small scale farming or in produce other than sugar cane feel they have been left out with all the attention and assistance given to the sugar industry and big farms.

Abaca, Lautoka

Like in all other villages where homes were rebuilt after the damage caused by Tropical Cyclone Evan in 2012, people here are happy with government because of the construction of 13 homes.

They also like Voreqe Bainimarama because he is the first PM to visit their village. Village headman Viliame Rokoua said developments in the village have not been addressed — like increasing the number of tourists visiting nearby parks and waterfalls.

There is also no proper water supply or electricity. Their major worry is the road and transportation costs.

Saru, Lautoka

Road: Needs to be upgraded

Water: problems faced by those in elevated areas, sometimes homes are deprived for days

Food price: Hope the new government will address this issue as a priority and at the same time address people's wage. Sugarcane farmers said they were hit hard in the pocket by the high costs.

Dreketi Feeder Road, Lomolomo, Lautoka

Community was largely impressed with government's ability to connect with the common people and hoped that the new government would continue with some of the government's popular initiatives

Roads: Have been trying unsuccessfully for many years to have the road upgraded. They feel left out as they watch the road improvements made to other areas. The route to Dreketi Sangam Primary School was identified as the worst.

Food prices: Would like to hear how food prices can be lowered.

Water: People are content with boreholes

Viseisei, Vuda Settlement , Lautoka

Land: Leases are due to expire or have expired, worried about increasing land prices.

Food prices: Feel people's wages are not enough to afford rising food prices. Want prices of basic food items reduced.

Naria, Rakiraki

There were mixed reactions in the area where some said everything was fine while people like Geeta Devi pointed us to a waterlogged area along Namena Rd. The buses stop about 400m off the Kings Rd because of the knee-deep mire.

"This has been a problem for the past 36 years and no one has fixed it," the 57-year-old said.

"School children and the elderly are the most affected because they find it hard to cross the flooded road especially during or after heavy rain.

"Kids can't go to school and the old people can't go to hospital or town to do their business.

"People have to walk for hours to cross this flooded section because the bus companies say their vehicles can't go past the swampy area. We were told it would be fixed but nothing has been done."

Moto, Ba

With a new bridge and water and road upgrade, residents are happy with the government and developments that have taken place in the area.

Natunuku and Lavusa

These two settlements reported they have been neglected because they are located in the middle of Ba and Tavua and authorities from both towns are not willing to take responsibility of them.

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