Why relocation is necessary

An Opinion By PARDEEP LAL Fiji National University Labasa Campus After the tsunami in Japan, some coastal towns and coastal settlements in Japan are contemplating moving to higher ground. The
22 Apr 2012 10:56

The flooded main street of Nadi Town

An Opinion
Fiji National University
Labasa Campus

After the tsunami in Japan, some coastal towns and coastal settlements in Japan are contemplating moving to higher ground.
The devastating impact of the horrific tsunami shook the whole nation leaving authorities speechless.
Scientific pursuit to predicting the next tsunami falls short of providing precise information for the next tsunami.
Hence, people do not want to take chances as they have been through the last devastating one.
South East Queensland discovered that poor land use planning resulted in huge losses.
The Lockyer valley, which was one of the worst hit by the 2011 floods, has plans for relocation.
The regional council has designed a relocation policy (named Grantham relocation policy adopted on May 11, 2011). Relocating towns is nothing new.
Globally there are evidence of towns and settlements being relocated to avoid future losses.
Bega in New South Wales (NSW), Australia, was relocated to its present location after the 1851 floods that killed 17 people. Gundagai Town, NSW, was relocated after 1852 when 36 per cent of its population drowned.
Clermont, a mining town in Queensland was relocated after 1916. (source: Lucinda Coates, 2012).
The call for relocation does not mean that because these towns were relocated we
should also consider relocation.
It is the dreadful and inevitable situation locally that warrants us to relocate.
In Fiji, flooding in the Western Division, especially in Nadi, has opened the eyes of many people and businesses.
The obvious solution to severe flooding of low lying settlements and towns is relocation.
Given Nadi’s geophysical characteristic and the climatic projections especially on sea level rise, it has become increasingly necessary to formulate feasible plans and act now.
The strategy and decisions should not be so much for the benefit of the present generation but really it should be for the future; meaning that long-term measures must be considered.
The present generation must learn to make sacrifices for the future generations. We cannot leave behind unsafe and risky environment for them to tread on and tackle because of our own greed.

The relocation process
The relocation process involves considerable planning.
It involves planning of a new site and rehabilitating and restoring old sites for best possible use which will incur the least damage from future flooding.
Preparation of a new site would involve identifying safer land, some clearing, planting and soil erosion control, infrastructure provision, subdivision and for towns would involve zoning.
Relocating a town does not involve shifting the existing buildings. Rather it involves shifting services. Setting up of bus stands, markets, bakeries, banks, shops and supermarkets to a secure location will see growth in the new centre.
This growth will attract more businesses and more services will eventually be established over time.

Restoring old sites     
Old sites may be left with fewer services. Naturally, it will become deserted over a few years. However, if the old site has potentials, it may be turned into an income-generating centre.
In case of Nadi Town, it can be converted into one of the largest eco parks in Fiji.
Local flower gardens, monuments, forest park, tree houses, games courts, traditional and cultural activities, for example, meke and hot stone walk, and handicraft centres be moved to safer levels are some activities that can be set up.
These activities will incur the least damage compared to turning it into a residential area.
But in order to develop it into a feasible centre, it will require lot of willpower of the people who own properties in Nadi Town.
One of the reasons that may restrict people to move is that they have business interests (own buildings) there and would lose out if they move to a new location.
Government assistance in relocation is necessary. In the longer term, they will benefit and so will the nation and its future generation.

Making the move
for relocation
It is not easy to ask people to relocate from a familiar site. However, finally we all have to come to terms with the hard fact that it is necessary.
Historical evidences suggest that people have moved from initial sites, from highlands to lowlands and so forth.
They made some hard choices and moved. This generation has to make some hard choices for the future generation.
The movement this time will not be over miles. It may be just a few metres away; in some cases a few hundred metres from their current location.
They will still have access to their former site depending on the arrangement.
The question of who wants to move and who does not, should not take precedence.
The fact is that government must not allow huge losses to be incurred during each flood.
Governments anywhere cannot afford to continue to provide millions of dollars of subsidy for recovery after each disaster unless their economy is large and growth is continually positive.
It is pleasing to know that Semo and Narata villagers in Nadi are prepared to move to higher locations.
I salute the great wisdom of the elders in these two villagers that has made the idea of relocation possible and understandably, Government stands ready to assist them.
Old settlements can be used for gardening or preserved as historical sites and stabilised by planting trees.
The objectives of disaster prevention are to promote prevention, control and predict natural disasters.
Disasters have always posed major problems and hindrance to growth and development.
Short term solutions, popular choices and emotionalism hinders progress and the same issues will emerge each time a disaster will strike.
Vulnerability analysis is an important component in any development project.
The Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) rightly stated that disaster prevention is not merely the preserve of technical sectors such as public works and building and that there is a long road to cover between policy and technical implementation.
Would someone give any guarantee that after the $250 million river diversion, there will be no more flooding of Nadi Town and nearby areas?
If there is an assurance, I would then agree wholeheartedly that this project should go ahead.
If, after river diversion, floods do occur in town and affects business and national economy, I hope the state is not blamed by the business community for poor planning.
Hence it is important for Government to commence development of Namaka and provide option to businesses to set up operations. Namaka has a huge potential of becoming a town. At the same time, other safer locations need to be established as Nadi is fast becoming a major centre and attraction in the South Pacific.
At this point, I may be able to give guarantee that relocation to safer higher ground will help solve much of the flooding problems of lowlands and delta areas.
Changes are sometimes hard to accept but people need to come to terms with reality eventually.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s and not of the Fiji Sun.  


Get updates from the Fiji Sun, handpicked and delivered to your inbox.

By entering your email address you're giving us permission to send you news and offers. You can opt-out at any time.

Fiji Sun Instagram