Peceli is still in Labasa and despite the continuing rain, is getting on with his tasks of meeting people, drinking kava (!) going to parties, etc. but there are numerous disruptions because of the very bad state of the roads, etc.
The Mayor of Labasa has a good letter in today's Fiji Times because the people of babasiga land are sick and tired of the continuing nuisance of floods - the disruption, the pollution, the danger to health, the financial burdens, time after time.
THE flooding of some parts of Labasa town is not surprising. Flooding is imminent in all of Fiji's estuary towns. Damage from flooding will be greater in the future as towns become more populated. Some people have made calls for the dredging of the Labasa river and other rivers in Fiji. I have, in the past, stated that dredging is not a permanent solution to flooding. It is only a temporary measure.
A better, long-term solution to the problem lies in the sustainable management of forests and the entire watershed. Sustainable farming practices need to be encouraged and practised to control the silt going into streams and rivers. Indiscriminate logging practices must stop. Once that is taken care of, flooding of towns can be minimised.
Additionally, with more people living in towns and increase in urban activity, drains become overburdened. Rubbish, commonly plastic bags and bottles, clog drains and contribute to flooding of urban centres.
However, I believe there is an enormous amount of silt clogging the Labasa river from previous floods. This needs to be cleared so the river can start breathing properly.
It will give some relief and assurance to Labasa residents. But certainly, dredging cannot be done every time, otherwise the real cause of flooding (unsustainable watershed management and indiscriminate logging) will be left unchecked.
The permanent solution to flooding is relocation. Many towns in Fiji were built by the river and delta area which, today, are causing millions of dollars of loss and damage. Estuary towns of Fiji including Labasa, need to be relocated to a higher and safer location to avoid the problem of flooding. This is long-term planning which municipal authorities should seriously consider and start doing it without delay.
The development of small growth centres in safe locations, away from rivers, can be a start to the relocation of towns. For example, Namaka could be the future location for Nadi town.
Tuatua and neighbouring upper Wailevu in Labasa is the ideal choice for Labasa town. Varadoli, Yalalevu or Nailega in Ba could become growth centres and eventually, in five to 10 years, become Ba town.
The woes of flooding will then be a thing of the past. Millions of dollars in losses over the years because of floods will be saved. Property value will improve, investment will increase and benefits will be forthcoming.
Pradeep c. Lal