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Council Probes Pollution Claims

Council Probes Pollution Claims
Ratu Save (left) with Sant Lal pointing to the allegedly polluted creek in Qaliwalu sub-division on July 13, 2018. Photo: Yogesh Chandra
July 14
10:17 2018

The Lautoka City Council is investigating claims by residents of a subdivision that some businesses are dumping oil and chemicals in a nearby creek.

This has been confirmed by council CEO Jone Nakauvadra, who says council staff have been at the scene at Qaliwalu subdivision, a five-minute drive from the city centre.

Residents say they are concerned and frustrated about the pollution.

Ratu Save, 71, a resident of Qaliwalu Subdivision for the past 20 years, said they had been experiencing the problem for a very long time.

“We are not animals, we are humans too,” he said.

“Even animals cannot drink this water.”

The effects of pollution into the creek has caused extensive damage.

“All the crabs and other marine species die because of this,” Mr Save said.

He added that for locals the creek was their major source of livelihood.

“People come and use water for drinking and we wash our clothes as well,” he added.

The safety of the children was also under the spotlight and Mr Save said he believed children would be in danger if they drank the contaminated water.

“What will happen if a child drinks this water without knowing about it,” he stated.

“They dump oil and clean their oil drums in the creek”

Mr Save said this was the worst pollution ever.

“Before it was minor, but today its worse. Sometimes the bridge also gets blocked due to massive amounts of debris being trapped there,” he said.

Sant Lal 63, another resident of the area, said that people have been solely dependent on the creek for a lot of things.

“This is affecting our environment to a great level,” he stated.

“What will the chemicals in the creek do to us.”

For now, both residents are hopeful that the problem is looked into immediately and measures are taken accordingly.

Meanwhile, the Environment Management Act 2005 (EMA) has set penalties for persons or companies that pollute the environment.

EMA came into force in 2008 and regulates pollution in Fiji’s environment.

It states that a person who, “without lawful authority or reasonable excuse, causes or contributes to the discharge of a waste or pollutant from any vessel, aircraft or facility commits an offence and is liable on conviction:

• for a first offence, to a fine not exceeding $250,000 and to a term of imprisonment not exceeding three years or both;

• For a second or subsequent offence, to a fine not exceeding $750,000 and to a term of imprisonment not exceeding 10 years or both.

In addition, section 45 (2) also states that: “A person who, knowingly or intentionally or with reckless disregard to human health, safety or the environment, causes a pollution incident that results in harm to human health or safety, or severe damage to the environment commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding $1,000,000 or to life imprisonment or both

When contacted yesterday Ministry of Environment Permanent Secretary Joshua Wycliffe said the ministry cannot fine offenders.

He said the matter was taken first to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions for a decision on whether to proceed with prosecution.

Once the matter reached court and the defendants were found guilty the Environment Act, in terms of fines, would then be applied. Edited by Epineri Vula

Feedback: yogesh.chandra@fijisun.com.fj

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