NEWS

Namosi Villagers Against Hydro Dam Project

We have nothing against the dam, but we have not been consulted enough. We have only been consulted once and that was last year.
26 Mar 2019 13:49
Namosi Villagers Against Hydro Dam Project
Women of Navunikabi in Namosi protesting against the dam that is being proposed for construction at their village on March 18, 2019. Photo: Supplied

Villagers from three villages in Namosi have stood their ground and voiced their opposition to plans to build a dam in the vicinity of their villages.

They say while they are not against development, they are against the way they were consulted and how their views on the project have been portrayed.
This is despite a claim by iTaukei Land Trust Board Chief Executive Officer Tevita Kuruvakadua yesterday that majority of the landowners supported the dam projects.

A Fiji Sun team visited Navunikabi and Waivaka villages, two of the villages that will be affected by the dam project, after villagers staged a protest against the development.

While rejecting the project outright, villagers said they disagreed with a statement by Mr Kuruvakadua that board officials held 41 consultations in 18 villages on the project.

Navunikabi Village liuliu-ni-koro (village leader) Rokowai Nikola said the villagers decided that they do not want the dam because they would be affected.

“We have only had four consultations. On the 4th consultation we walked out and protested. We read in the paper that Mr Kuruvakadua said that they have consulted us 41 times but that is not true. It also stated that they have consulted the 18 villages,” Mr Nikola said.

“The first time they came they told us that the distance from the dam to the village was 3km and the second consultation they said it was 2km. However, some men from the village went to measure the distance and was 1.8km.

“No landowners from our village have agreed to the dam. We don’t have anything against the development in Namosi, but we don’t agree with the location. We don’t want the dam because we will be affected. There is a possibility of flooding.”

Meanwhile, Waivaka Village landowner Petero Leveni said they needed more consultation and did not want to be left in the dark.

“We have nothing against the dam, but we have not been consulted enough. We have only been consulted once and that was last year,” Mr Leveni said.

“During the meeting in Navua we were shown the EIA report, but it was about 300 pages. They must understand that we will not be able to read all of them and it is in English. It would be better if it could be in iTaukei and that would be good for us.

“The TLTB and HydroFiji must understand that we need to be consulted properly. They can’t be talking to each other and leaving the landowners in the dark.”
Speaking to the Fiji Sun, Tikina Namosi landowners’ committee chairman Josefa Tauleka said they were shocked when they heard about the construction of the hydropower plant in the province.

“The initial stages of the negotiations were done by TLTB and Hydro Fiji. TLTB raised the Compulsory Land Acquisition and as custodian of Native Land to negotiate on behalf of the landowners without consulting them,” Mr Tauleka said.

“There are four villages beside the Wainikoroiluva River that will face the high rise of water and the dam constructed there. Loss of land, rivers for fishing, relocation of villages and other social impacts will be faced by the landowners.

Mr Tauleka said they were hoping that their grievances are addressed.

In response yesterday, Mr Kuruvakadua said claims that the landowners were not consulted in the process of issuing the leases were false.

“The benefits provided to the landowners and the people of Namosi under these leasing arrangements including compensation for their natural resources as well as the provisions of other benefits like employment and business opportunities are attractive.”

A press release by Hydro Fiji, which will build the dam, stated that “On February, 2019 the Australian renewable energy HydroFiji Pty Ltd (through its local affiliate Hydro VL Pty Ltd) submitted an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA’s) for a small hydro project involving three plants in the Namosi Province,” it stated “This project was developed in response to the Fijian Government’s call, first made several years ago, for greater private sector involvement in meeting the challenges of generating more than 80 per cent of electricity demand from renewable energy sources by the end of year 2021.

Edited by Epineri Vula

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