Saturday, June 13, 2009

How do you balance tourism, ecology and Fijian village life?

Villagers consider change
By Jone Luvenitoga
Sunday, June 14, 2009

What has long been known as one of the country's most exquisite tourist destinations - the Coral Coast - could lose that status if people within its surrounding villages don't make changes to their lifestyle.

Highlighting some devastating issues, the chief guest at a recent Serua district refresher course, Setefano Osonamoli saluted certain NGO groups who were monitoring the situation providing a series of research results on our suffering natural surroundings.

Their reports show a chain of worrying factors but one in particular that mesmerised them were piggeries posted close to the shoreline and beside village areas posing a great danger to both aqua and human lives. This they call the most devastating factor which villagers had been living with.

"It has been a common sight along coastal villages for as far as I can remember where people raise pigs by the beach and waste is drained directly into the sea when pans are cleaned," Mr Osonamoli said.

Researches stated in their reports that nutrients in animal waste cause algal blooms and use up oxygen in the water contributing to the "dead zones" where there's not enough oxygen to support aquatic life. The dead zone fluctuates in size each year, which will definitely extend around the coral coast and regionally if not stopped.

Ammonia, a toxic form of nitrogen released in gas form during waste disposal, can be carried more than 300 miles through the air before being dumped back onto the ground or into the water, where it causes algal blooms and kill fish as well as coral.

"We cannot stop development taking place but we can monitor them," he said.

People, he said, had been living and making the same mistakes for a long time and are paying for it now.

From rising sea levels, disappearing sea creatures and soil erosion, the district office will continue to refresh people's minds in workshops around the coastal areas.

With the agro ecosystem, the district, said to be the second highest provider of mahogany in the country had seen logging taking place as far back as 1950.

The higher regions are now bare from the high demand of mahogany plants and soil erosion is a common sight there.

A recent tour around the Navua area saw the rise of underwater sea bed that had enclosed the mouth of the river. Uprooted trees are stranded across the shallow areas, spilling water across the drier areas which are now threatened by the rise of water levels. A family cemetery at Toqoru by the Navua coast is now under water.

Mr Osonamoli added that the country has only heard of rising sea level.

"No one has even heard of rising underwater levels where every inch gained above extends inland below the ground as well. And coastal villagers will be the most vunarable to this threat."

Researches in their reports showed proof where plantations around the coastal areas are deteriorating in size and in other places nothing grows anymore. A sign of salty sea water reaching beyond the coast. A well set scenario for any tsunami.

A combined force of police officers and the fisheries department is helping train village officers to look after their marine protected areas.

Course participant, Namaqumaqua Village headman Everi Lavo said the workshop had brought the community together after witnessing the fall of their aqua resources over the past 10-years.

"We are now looking to the government for assistance regarding our sea patrols around protected regions. This would a great help us and our future generation," Mr Lavo said.

The assistance of OISCA and Coral Development Projects in reviving aqua resources has seen the return of schools of fish that had disappeared over the past 10 years. "We cannot stop development taking place around our areas for that benefits the government and the people as well. But we can monitor them in line with the boundaries of the law."

There's a very good article on-line -

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