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Wacia – An Example Of Development Gone Wrong

Remnants from the Freesoul Real Estate Devel­opment (Fiji) PTE Limited development on Wacia on Malolo Island is a constant reminder of environmental developments gone.
18 Sep 2022 15:30
Wacia – An Example Of Development Gone Wrong
An aerial view of Wacia in Malolo Island. Photo: Kelera-Sovasiga Tuisawau

Remnants from the Freesoul Real Estate Devel­opment (Fiji) PTE Limited development on Wacia on Malolo Island is a constant reminder of environmental developments gone wrong.

About 8000 mangroves were re­moved during the illegal develop­ment carried out by Freesoul be­tween June 8, 2017, and December 6, 2018.

Freesoul was fined $1 million by the High Court in Suva in April this year for the illegal and exten­sive damage done to the Wacia fore­shore.

Many organisations and environ­mental experts declined to com­ment when asked on the impact the development has on human rights, with an organisation saying it was a sensitive issue.

An environmental expert, who spoke on the condition of not being identified, said mangroves played a vital role in the ecosystem, such as allocating more carbon below ground.

Mangroves also have higher be­low- to above-ground carbon mass ratios than terrestrial trees, the ex­pert said.

 

WACIA ISLAND

Wacia is located about 10 minute’s boat ride from Solevu Village, where landowners of the developed land reside.

Freesoul had plans to construct 350 overwater bures and a casino on the site.

The development was halted in December 2018, following a stop order issued by the High Court in Lautoka.

While it may have brought about work opportunities for locals, the devastating intrusion has affected mangroves, its marine life and the livelihoods of nearby villages who depend on its food source.

 

SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

Anne Moorhead, a freelance writ­er, and editor specialising in sus­tainable development focusing on the Pacific says Fiji and tourism are inseparable.

Her DevPolicy Blog page titled, ‘A greener future for tourism in Fiji?’ states: “Rebuilding the tourism in­dustry should include a renewed drive to restore and protect the nation’s natural environment and facilitate its sustainable manage­ment by its community owners.

Ms Moorhead had recently re­turned to Fiji after being away for two years. She said the loss of na­tive trees had a knock-on effect for entire ecosystems, affecting native species from insects to birds and bats (the only native mammals here).

 

Ms Moorhead said she was a pan­ellist during a webinar titled, “Dua­vata Sustainable Tourism Collec­tive”.

Duavata is an association of small tourism businesses built on and united by respect for Fiji’s environ­ment and cultural heritage.

“Inviting Duavata to the table in­dicates a recognition of the impor­tant role that environmental and socio-cultural dimensions play in distinguishing Fiji from its compet­itors in the international tourism marketplace.”

Fiji needs to learn from the illegal development on Malolo Island.

 

Any future investment needs to undergo a thorough process before approval for a lease or environmen­tal impact assessment is granted.

The landmark ruling on the exces­sive environmental damage done on Malolo should raise red flags on investors wishing to lease land for commercial development. Because at the end of the day, it is the locals who suffer, and the future genera­tion who bear the full brunt.

 

This story was produced with the support of Internews’ Earth Journalism Network.

Story By: Kelera Sovasiga-Tuisawau

Feedback: kelera.sovasiga@fijisun.com.fj

 



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