What Us Beach Has The Clearest Water

The thrill of having to bathe in the clear, pristine Waisulubonu creek has been a long time coming for residents of Wainadoi.

This was made possible after an ongoing gravel extraction work was given a stop work order (SWO) last month.

While this work is a contribution to several key economic sectors, the extraction of gravel from Fiji’s perennial rivers have been a driver of environmental change, controversy, and conflict.

BEFORE: The Waisulubonu Creek during the gravel extraction works.  Photo:  Raymond Quai Hoi

BEFORE: The Waisulubonu Creek during the gravel extraction works. Photo: Raymond Quai Hoi

BEFORE: The Waisulubonu Creek during the gravel extraction works.  Photo:  Raymond Quai Hoi

BEFORE: The Waisulubonu Creek during the gravel extraction works. Photo: Raymond Quai Hoi

 

The Residents

For Masilini Liku, 55, it has been a challenge to do her family’s laundry before the extraction works start upstream at 6am.

A stop work order (SWO) is a formal notice that can be issued to a contractor by a client, compelling them to suspend or cease work. 

“By 5am, I am already here in the creek doing our laundry because by the time gravel extraction starts, the water becomes very muddy,” Ms Liku said.

“By then, it is impossible to do any washing, or bathing our children for the day.

“We depend a lot on this river for our drinking water, for cooking and when the water gets muddy, there is nothing much we can do,” she said.

Extraction work begins at 6am and ends around 6pm.

Residents will have to wait till the evening to be able to fetch water from the river for their daily use.

Masilini Liku, 55, enjoys doing family laundry in the clear Waisuluboca Creek without having to worry about debris flowing from upstream from the gravel extraction works. Photo: Kelera Sovasiga

Masilini Liku, 55, enjoys doing family laundry in the clear Waisuluboca Creek without having to worry about debris flowing from upstream from the gravel extraction works. Photo: Kelera Sovasiga

The Law On Gravel Extractions

Some sand and gravel operations rely on dredging, where sediments are removed from within an active stream channel.

A public advisory was sent out earlier this year from the Ministry for Lands and Mineral Resources (MLMR), advising members of the public that sand and gravel extraction for personal or commercial use will require a licence from the Divisional offices.

Under Section 2 of the State Lands Act 1945 and Section 2 of the Rivers and Streams Act 1880, the State (Government) owns all Foreshore, Rivers, Streams, and the Waters of Fiji including the soil under the waters of Fiji. This also includes sand and gravel.

Anyone found carrying out either a small scale or commercial extraction of these resources from any of the public beaches, foreshore, rivers and streams without a valid sand and extraction licence, is breaking the law and will be prosecuted accordingly.

AFTER: The Waisulubonu Creek after a stop work order was issued.  Photo: Kelera Sovasiga

AFTER: The Waisulubonu Creek after a stop work order was issued. Photo: Kelera Sovasiga

AFTER: The Waisulubonu Creek after a stop work order was issued.  Photo: Kelera Sovasiga

AFTER: The Waisulubonu Creek after a stop work order was issued. Photo: Kelera Sovasiga

 Happy Residents

Julia Railala was overwhelmed when she learnt that work upstream had stopped and the diggers and other machinery were no longer operating.

“Now we can enjoy what we do in the river without having to worry about the clear waters turning muddy suddenly,” Ms Railala said.

She said when residents came late to the river, they either had to take another $10 to go to other pools to get their drinking supply or wait it out until late in the evening.

“A lot of us here rely on this creek and it’s sad that those sitting in highchairs cannot see our daily struggles because our families are affected by these gravel extractions,” she said.

For Sainiana Dilo, who lives just metres from the riverbank, says her prayers were answered.

“It feels good not to hear these large machines at work. It’s more peaceful now compared to before. We depend on rainwater and water from the river,” she said.

Leone Tauleka said the damage has already been done.

“Before we used to catch a lot of big freshwater eels but now when we go out, there’s hardly any out there, or it’s small,” Mr Tauleka said.

“These are the effects of the gravel extraction done upstream and it’s causing a lot of water pollution.”

Ms Dilo and Mr Tauleka share similar sentiments that the river is longer deep since the extraction of gravel.

Julia Railala with her niece (from left) Sautulevu Davute, 5, nephew Iowane Lui, 3, and son Clive Alive, 2, doing laundry at the Waisulubonu Creek. Photo: Kelera Sovasiga

Julia Railala with her niece (from left) Sautulevu Davute, 5, nephew Iowane Lui, 3, and son Clive Alive, 2, doing laundry at the Waisulubonu Creek. Photo: Kelera Sovasiga

 

Leone Tauleka and Sainiana Dilo pleased to see the Waisulubonu waters much clearer than before. Photo: Kelera Sovasiga

Leone Tauleka and Sainiana Dilo pleased to see the Waisulubonu waters much clearer than before. Photo: Kelera Sovasiga

Other Homes Affected

About 10 minutes’ drive from the creek, lies the village of Waikasenaura.

Landowner Tomasi Mua said the physical impact of the gravel extraction downstream was visible among their land, although they do not fetch water from the Waisulubonu creek.

“The formation of our riverbank is slowly collapsing. Those extractions are pulling the soil and all these rivers are connected,” he said.

“I’m glad it has stopped because when these machines leave, it’s the people who are left behind facing the cruel effects of these activities.”

What is left of the Waisulubonu Creek in Wainadoi after gravel extraction was stopped. Photo: Kelera Sovasiga

What is left of the Waisulubonu Creek in Wainadoi after gravel extraction was stopped. Photo: Kelera Sovasiga

New Water  Source

A village initiative of a new water pipeline has now benefitted about 21 households living within the Waikasenarua vicinity.

Kusitino Waqanisanini, 61, said water supply was a problem for him for about six years.

He is among the many who were relocated from Veisari a few years ago.

“I am thankful this village project is benefitting people who have land leases here in Wainadoi. It’s all about coming into unity and working towards a common goal for better living,” Mr Waqanisanini said.

Kusitino Waqanisanini, with 12-year-old nephew Viliame Rasigatale, of Waikasenaura, Wainadoi, test a newly-installed water source. Photo: Kelera Sovasiga

Kusitino Waqanisanini, with 12-year-old nephew Viliame Rasigatale, of Waikasenaura, Wainadoi, test a newly-installed water source. Photo: Kelera Sovasiga

Ministry’s  Response

In Parliament this week, Opposition Member Lenora Qereqeretabua commented on the stop work order that was approved a week ago.

“The extraction from the Waisulubonu Creek has stopped for now but the damage has already been done,” Ms Qereqeretabua said.

“Mr Speaker, because at any one time there would be up to three diggers working in the creek with seven different trucks taking loads. The banks of the creek are damaged and weakened for about 350 metres downstream.

“Now, Wainadoi children often go to the creek to brush their teeth, wash clothes and bathe and I would hate to think what could happen if a weakened bank were to suddenly collapse on a group of frolicking kids.

“Families from Suva to Navua often go to Wainadoi to enjoy what used to be the cool clear creeks, but I am told that when the extraction was happening you only had to stand on the Wainadoi River Bridge to see silt travelling to the sea, silt which would then settle on the reef  surronding Naqara Island, endangering the ecosystem and the livelihoods of the families who live there and who rely on the reef for their food. So much for all the hot air from our oceans champion,” she said.

Questions on the gravel extractions were sent to the Minister for Lands and Mineral Resources, Jone Usamate, and the Minister for Waterways and Environment, Mahendra Reddy.

It remained unanswered when this article went to press.

Feedback:  adi.sovasiga@fijisun.com.fj

Source : https://fijisun.com.fj/2021/12/06/clear-waters-please-wainadoi-residents/

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