Tribal Chief Marik Koftau of Erakor leads the Council of Chiefs of Erakor village on Tuesday 18 September, objecting to the Port Vila Urban Development Project (PVUDP) and its workforces from the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) on their plans to divert drain water into Erakor Lagoon or Second Lagoon.
The ADB-financed Cyclone Pam Road Reconstruction Project is funding the project and supporting the government’s efforts to climate and disaster-proof transport infrastructure on the Efate.
The Ministry of Infrastructure and Public Utilities (MIPU) says the development works based at Tasiriki area is currently being monitored by the CCECC.
They are trying to stop the installation of storm water drainage from USP to Club Hippique to take polluted water from higher ground to the generally clean salt water of the lagoon.
Their council comprises 22 tribal chiefs, 2 assisting chiefs and a paramount chief. All communities are represented.
Our photo show the area near Hannington Alatoa’s kava bar which was intended as a passageway for the dirty water to cross the round island road before joining the channel linking the two lagoons.
The communities concerned were never consulted about the work or the desirability of the project. And work on the kava bar access road is believed to have gone too far. Thursday morning namele leaves preventing further direct access to the lagoons were removed by Chief Marik. This was in response to the first meeting of understanding.
Residents of some of the areas involved were offered financial assistance if they gave right-of-way to the drain-water project management. Daily Post is aware of residents objecting to this management. The land is not for sale.
“We certainly do not want our local Lagoon to become like the waters at Fatumaru Bay,” Chief Koftau says.
“The Lagoon acts as a focal benefactor to the residing communities habiting near the waters, where they can benefit from harvesting fish as food or to sell to earn money.”
The people are also accustomed to using the water as their bathing expanse, we sincerely encourage the growth of mangroves as they function as breeding zones for fish to populate,” says the tribal chief.
The protest led the CCECC to briefly halt the project works at Tasiriki and after a consultation with the Council of Chiefs from Erakor and the Director of MIPU, the project went back on track.
MIPU source says the Chiefs misinterpreted the plans’ designs by the CCECC which was proposed to treat dirty water before allowing it to flow into the Lagoon.
Chief Koftau says after all, he was glad that his message went through the Government and that the groundwork could become more environment friendly.
“All in all, we don’t want our waters to be affected by chemicals, poisonous wastes and substances flowing through drains and polluting our waters. We take this stand and hope this can be seen as a message to all communities residing near rivers and sea waters, we must always continue to fight for the preservation of our given land, rivers and ocean in order to reserve them for our future generations.”
By Adorina Massing