Floods show gross urban neglect

PARTY OPINION By LAVINIA PADARATH President Fiji Labour Party Suva under floodwaters? Yes, as preposterous as this may seem, we have just experienced vast areas of the city and its
01 Mar 2014 09:10


Fiji Labour Party

Suva under floodwaters? Yes, as preposterous as this may seem, we have just experienced vast areas of the city and its environs under at least two feet of water after less than 12 hours of downpour.
Key thoroughfares such as Greig St, Grantham Road and Karsanji Road had to be closed to all light traffic as widespread flooding turned the city’s streets into rivers. Homes, shops and factories in Suva, Nasinu and Lami areas were submerged in the most unprecedented flooding seen in Suva’s history.
Squatter settlements in Wailea, Vatuwaqa, and the Muslim League settlement in Nabua were under water with a lot of the homes suffering damage from floodwaters.
Other recent headlines show:
n the worst dengue epidemic ever experienced in the country with close to 6000 recorded cases in government hospitals and clinics and many more that went through private doctors
n a sudden increase in cases of tuberculosis, asthma and diabetes
n unprecedented levels of poverty with reportedly close to 50 per cent of the population suffering extreme hardship
n sprouting squatter settlements teeming with people living in overcrowded, squalid conditions lacking proper sanitation facilities
These are not unrelated developments. They show sharply falling standards of living, inadequate and rapidly declining city infrastructure and a general environment of neglect and disrepair.
One might ask what is the connection between widespread flooding and the worst dengue epidemic to hit the central district? Dengue is a disease spread by mosquitoes that proliferate in unkempt, dirty and squalid conditions.
The rise in cases of diseases such as tuberculosis, diabetes and asthma is indicative of falling living standards such as overcrowding, malnutrition, lack of proper hygiene and sanitation, and polluted environment.
They also reflect weakening immunity levels, and lowered resistance levels generally of people not able to afford decent, nutritional food.
In the past few years Suva has grown into a neglected city with overgrown grass and bushy roadsides, clogged drains and unkempt gardens and parks.
While the authorities have gone around exhorting residents to clean up their compounds and backyards in the wake of the dengue epidemic, no one spoke of the neglect at the municipal level. Filthy, clogged drains not only cause flooding, they are also great breeding grounds for disease spreading mosquitoes.
Suva’s illegally appointed administrators have spent millions of dollars of ratepayers’ money on ambitious, fancy projects, while neglecting the provision of basic services.
City rates have escalated since 2009, the most recent being a 25 per cent increase imposed in 2013, but services have been neglected.
In a tropical environment such as ours, cutting grass, maintaining parks and gardens and keeping drains clean at all times is essential. Yet, these vital services such as grass cutting and garden refuse collection, take place once a month, and in most instances drag on into six weeks.
Litter laws are not enforced. Footpaths in the city centre are so old, they are cracked and crumbling and often dangerous particularly to the elderly.
The unprecedented flooding on Grantham, Fletcher and Laucala Bay roads has raised questions about whether proper environmental issues were considered before the Chinese development works in the area were authorised. Is it possible that the natural drainage system here was affected by the destruction of the entire tiritiri for the reclamation works?
Suva’s drainage and roading infrastructure dating back to colonial times, have not kept pace with the city’s growth.
Key roads in the capital city have gone past their user-date and most are badly in need of new foundation and re-surfacing. Instead, constant patching up of potholes has given them a patch-work appearance.
The city’s reservoirs are inadequate to meet the demands of its growing population, resulting in frequent disruptions to water supply. These have become chronic of late.
The blame for the city’s current state of disrepair and neglect must be placed on eight years of illegal rule.
Elected municipal councils were replaced by regime appointed administrators, often people with questionable records. There is no longer any accountability or transparency in the running of these municipal bodies.
Administrators are not answerable to ratepayers.
Only a return to parliamentary democracy and accountable democratic institutions will check the malaise that is fast destroying our nation’s health and infrastructure.

n The opinions expressed in this column are those of the Fiji Labour Party. They are published by the Fiji Sun to enhance free and open debate ahead of the General Elections.

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