Confusion over height of weir

The dying vegetation at the Wainisavulevu weir in June 2018. Picture: SUPPLIED

CONFUSION now surrounds the project to raise the Wainisavulevu weir which was commissioned by Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama in November 2015.

During an EFL press conference on Monday, EFL chairman Daksesh Patel insisted that the weir had been raised only six metres, not eight metres as The Fiji Times had reported.

The Fiji Times then referred him to a document on EFL’s website, the Wainisavulevu “Project Brief”.

The project brief said that the weir would be raised by eight metres. Before 5pm the same afternoon, shortly after the press conference had ended, the wording of the project brief on the EFL website had been changed.

It now read that the weir would be raised by six metres.

However, in the amended project brief an engineering design diagram unchanged from the old project brief shows the difference in height from the old weir to the new weir as eight metres.

Environmentalists say that the height increase is significant because it blocks more water and causes greater flooding of the area behind the weir.

Tenders were first called for the weir raising project in 2008.

The Fiji Times understands that the project was redesigned in 2010 and 2011 before the contract was given to Sinohydro Corporation Ltd of China.

It is unclear now whether the redesign conformed to the design referred to in the environmental impact assessment (EIA) report of 2008, which said the weir would be raised by six metres.

Contacted via email yesterday, Mr Patel said he would prefer EFL chief executive officer Hasmukh Patel to respond to all other queries.

Environmentalist Marika Tuiwawa said the raising of the weir was detrimental to the area.

“The $43 million project has resulted in the demise of the conservation value or the biodiversity value of that particular area. Another thing it has contributed to that hardly anybody knows is it has become a barren land. The raising of the weir has resulted in the loss of biodiversity, so we may not know what (species of animals and plants) used to be there. What is going to happen there may be a disappearance of a type of species from that area that we may never know existed.”

Launching National Environment Week in June 2015, Mr Bainimarama had said that all developments in Fiji must ensure the protection of the environment.

“Let me tell you what sustainable development means,” he said.

“It means that everything we do as a nation — every project we undertake — only goes ahead if it doesn’t damage the environment.

“So at every level, whether it is waste disposal, adopting more efficient technology or conserving our resources, my Government has embraced the principle of sustainable development. And I ask every citizen to join us on this crusade for a cleaner, greener Fiji,” said Mr Bainimarama.

Questions sent to the permanent Secretary for Ministry of Environment remain unanswered when this report went to press.

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