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River of dead

Felix Chaudhary
Friday, November 03, 2017

DEAD fish, crabs, prawns and mussels littered the banks of the Ba River at Votua Village yesterday.

When a team from this newspaper visited the riverside community yesterday, the stench of rotting marine life was overpowering and lay over the village area which is home to about 500 people.

Votua Village headman Simione Navara said residents noticed dead fish floating in the river since last Saturday.

"All the villagers came out to the riverbank because this is something that happens every time the Rarawai sugar mill cleans out their tanks and equipment, whatever effluent comes out of the mill kills all the marine life," he claimed.

"We have raised this issue with the Fiji Sugar Corporation for many years, but nothing has changed.

"They don't realise or don't care that we rely on the fish, crabs, prawns and mussels from the river for our livelihood and it is also our source of food.

"Every time this happens, it takes up to three months for the fish to return. So we will now be without seafood until February."

Fiji Sugar Corporation chief executive officer Graham Clark said the miller had nothing to do with the Ba River issue.

"The factory has closed for the season so there are no current factory discharges," he said in response to questions from this newspaper.

"As previous incidents have not been related to the sugar factory/mill, we assume that the Ministry of Environment has been consulted."

However, Mr Navara alleged that the issue always occurred when the mill ceased crushing and also during major stoppages mid-season.

"Rarawai stopped crushing last Saturday and that's when they cleaned out their machinery," he claimed.

"All their effluent is dumped into the Ba River because they do not have a holding pond. We have been living here for generations and we know how the mill works and what they do with their waste," he claimed. Questions sent to Environment Minister Parveen Kumar and attempts to obtain comment via telephone calls remained unanswered when this edition went to press last night.

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