Sunday, October 19, 2014

A few complaints about Labasa town

from w
In today's Fiji Times (Monday) the writer lists several problems with Labasa and what needs to be done.

'Changes' for Labasa

Pardeep Lal
Monday, October 20, 2014
LABASA Town is the main town on the island of Vanua Levu and is situated at the estuary of the Labasa River. It serves people of three provinces (Bua, Macuata and Cakaudrove). The town has great potential to become an economically much vibrant town. Being a town that has experienced peripheral sub -urban growth in the last decade, activities have since then increased in the town.
Peak days are usually busy and the following problems are encountered by urban commuters and public.
* Lack of parking space. The number of vehicles in Labasa has significantly increased but parking space has remained the same! It is impossible to find parking space in town. Supermarket parking spaces are also limited.
* Busy supermarkets. Most supermarkets have few check-out counters and long lines are common. Loud music is a nuisance in some supermarkets. The concept of shopping in a quiet environment is not experienced by shoppers in supermarkets in Labasa. Supermarkets need to improve on their service delivery by setting up more check-out counters. They need to have express counters as well.
* Unavailability of bus service after 5pm. Most bus services cease around 5pm. If bus services are available until 8pm and supermarkets and businesses are open for extended hours, it will have many benefits. More growth opportunities will be created and business will flourish in the North. It will also reduce overcrowding of supermarkets and reduce parking problems in town during the day.
* Overcrowded bus stand. It is a risk to people who cross between busses to reach the market or town. The development of the market area looks promising, however, the town must consider an alternative location for the bus stand as a matter of priority. The pollution from busses is a huge health risk while congestion is unbearable. Commuters need a safer bus stand area.
* Crossing lights and crossing locations. The non-functioning of the only crossing light in the main street further causes traffic jams. People need to be educated on rules for crossing. Pedestrians have been seen jumping onto the road at zebra crossings without any due regard to traffic. Many people do not understand zebra crossings mean you may cross only when the road is clear. The police and the Land Transport Authority must mount education programs on this aspect for the general safety of pedestrians.
* Moreover, the back road is under-utilised except during peak hours. Town must improve the back road and direct all heavy traffic (trucks, tractors, cane lorries etc.) through it to avoid congestion on the main street.
Urban population growth for Labasa is a key indicator that justifies the call for improvement of urban services. Bureau of Statistics figures show the combined urban population in the North was 19,409 in 1986. This figure leaped to 30,051 within 10 years (1996) which is a 55 per cent increase.
A large number of people from rural areas have shifted to peri-urban areas. The demand thus is on improved roads, reliable water and transport service, better housing and greener environment.
With Government's plan to develop the North further, mechanisms need to be put in place to sustain growth. Labasa must not go through the same problems and obstacles (squatter settlements, pollution, congestion, urban unemployment, overcrowding, urban flooding etc) other cities and towns (including Suva) have gone through.
Labasa Town must also work on extending its boundary. This will have long-term benefits for the town and its people. It must not be left to operate in its existing town boundary forever. Growth in the peripheral areas is indicating the town must grow outward. Many urban centres have been successful in solving urban problems such as overcrowding, congestion etc. by decentralisation of services.
Urban problems are associated with urban growth. While such problems indicate growth, the sensible approach will be to ensure sound urban planning which can only come about through better understanding of urban geomorphology.
* Pardeep Lal is a lecturer in ethics and governance at the Fiji National University's School of Social Sciences at its Labasa campus. The views expressed are his and not of this newspaper. He can be contacted on

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