Weir saga

The dying vegetation and dried up lake at Wainisavulevu in Naitasiri. Picture: SIKELI QOUNADOVU

FOUR political parties have demanded immediate investigations into what one has called the “environmental disaster” at the Wainisavulevu weir in Monasavu.

The National Federation Party (NFP), Fiji Labour Party (FLP), Unity Fiji and the Social Democratic Liberal Party (SODELPA) say that someone needs to be held accountable for raising the weir level without a proper environment impact assessment (EIA).

NFP vice-president Seini Nabou said it was “incredible” for Energy Fiji Ltd (EFL) to attack The Fiji Times for highlighting the issue instead of focusing on the alleged damage it had already done to the Nadrau plateau.

“Nowhere in EFL’s press conference (on Monday) is EFL saying it will fix the damage. In fact, the chairman (Daksesh Patel) admits that he has not even been there to see the damage,” Ms Nabou said.

She said Mr Patel said that EFL was within the law and that the weir was raised by six metres and not eight metres.

“It doesn’t matter what the law is. It doesn’t matter how many metres it is. There is only one important question here. What are you going to do about the damage?”

FLP leader Mahendra Chaudhry said a lot of lip-service was given to climate change and environmental issues in Fiji, but in practice, we were allowing our own natural ecosystems to be destroyed through indiscriminate practices such as the one at the Wainisavulevu region.

Mr Chaudhry said according to statements from environmental experts, the authorities were warned about the adverse impact of raising the height of the weir.

“It seems to us the damage had been caused in the first place by EFL (then FEA) not heeding the advice. It is now trying to cover up,” he said.

“We have had other cases where development has been allowed without credible environmental impact studies or where the recommendations of studies were ignored to accommodate the interests of developers.”

Unity Fiji leader Savenaca Narube said the entire nation was in disbelief of the environmental disaster at Monasavu.

“This is a complete disaster that has been hidden from the public. Someone must be accountable for this catastrophe,” he said.

Mr Narube questioned how a disaster of this magnitude was not known to EFL.

“I call for a thorough investigation into this environmental disaster immediately. How come a disaster of this magnitude was not known to Energy Fiji Ltd? It did not happen overnight. I am certain that someone knew what was happening but decided to conceal it.

“What are the long-term impacts of this disaster? What are the costs to the landowners of the loss of livelihoods? Who is accountable? These are the questions that the investigation should clear, and we must not sweep this under the carpet,” Mr Narube said.

He claimed this was not the only environment disaster that Fiji was facing. “We see the indiscriminate cutting down of mangroves, illegal harvesting of forests, the issue of permits without proper procedures, and the development at the river mouths that causes rapid flooding.”

SODELPA provisional candidate Lynda Tabuya said the Wainisavulevu weir was “COP23’s waterloo”.

Ms Tabuya said the weir was a reflection of government’s environmental stance.

“Beginning with audacious promises to improve the lives of many, only to be bogged down by ineffective plans and leaving in its wake a barren wasteland that will be felt for generations to come.

“The Government steamrolled this project without meaningful consultation with stakeholders. They ignored the opposition of environmentalists who said raising the weir would flood and damage the flatlands.”

She said the development had destroyed the spiritual homeland of the iTaukei landowners of the area.

“Hundreds of years of history, sacred burial and hunting grounds all washed away due to negligence. “The EFL’s only defence is to then blame the media for sensationalising the issue when everyone can clearly see the devastation in high definition. “Our PM should spend less time getting Arnold Schwarzenegger to praise him for ‘kicking butt’ because his government is saying ‘hasta la vista’ to our environment.”

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