Authorities too busy, distracted or have no funds…
Thank you John Magawaiwai for, once again, standing up for the Erakor Lagoons!
John explains how two running in parallel authority systems: an official (Western) established by the Constitution, and an unofficial (customary) system administered by communities and chiefs, is not working for the Erakor Lagoons Nature and their People.
The future is in the hands of both authorities, but the available scientific and traditional knowledge, the customary and government resources seem completely useless to face opportunistic private interests, which operate surreptitiously.
Again and again is too late. The damage is already done and this is a real threat to the Marine Life and the Livelihoods and Health of the People of the Erakor Lagoons.
As it stands, we will lose our Paradise and wellbeing in a fast rate, till a point of no return. The official authority system is failing to protect us.
Kastom and Chiefs authority seems progressively weaker, particularly in Urban and peri-urban areas where both authorities co-exist and one authority seems to be waiting for the other to act. In practice, there is little action and private interests take benefit against the Paradise.
Too many cook spoil the soup?!
14 October 2021
Another evidence of the environmental abuses and destruction
Below a reverse chronological factual report of the Erakor Bridge Community desperate actions to alert for the urgency of protecting the Erakor Lagoons, before is too late….
If you agree on our actions please show your solidarity and support us by signing a Petition https://www.change.org/p/all-society-of-vanuatu-save-the-erakor-lagoons
Destruction continues… In spite of a clear authority rejection of a construction of a bridge for private ”commercial” use in 2016. A Bridge again?!
28, 29 and 30 April: The voice of the Erakor Lagoons!
Natongtong Theatre Group: https://web.facebook.com/Vanuatuclean/videos/735146630515497/
Chief’s Tok Tok: https://web.facebook.com/watch/?v=563662647951336
Works at land in advance state for a commercial development, in front of Pacific Supplies, Korman. Will a Bridge come again?!
Authorities overlook “various Etas” arround Erakor Lagoons. This includes a workshop with buckets of fuel, oil and hazard liquids in a remaining dumping site close to a “development” in the Emtem Lagoons a few metter from the water.
Pikinini prepare The Voice of the Erakor Lagoons
Police responds to pikinini’s letter and visit community
Pikinini Act and write a complaint to the Police
Fish dying in Emten Lagoon, no funds for waste assessment
VBTC Head News Pollution at Erakor Lagoons
The People of Seaside Police stand up… worries about Pollution at Erakor Lagoons!
National Referral Hospital needs new sewage system: Dr. Harry
Vila Central Hospital (VCH) needs a new sewage system.
The national referral hospital’s sewage system is also polluting Ekasuvat or First Lagoon.
VCH Superintendent, Dr. Tony Harry said the sewage system is from the 1960s during colonial days and the system used is outdated. Dr. Harry says there are three processes that the system uses which are storage, filtration and finally chlorination, just like the swimming pools, before it goes into the lagoon.
He is appealing to the Ministry of Health to get the proposed project of a new sewage system up and running as soon as possible. Dr. Harry says the project may be funded by the Japanese government who funded the last hospital upgrades.
Next to the sewage facility is the Laken community made up of approximately 100 people from Tongoa. Chief Kalo Thompson who is part of this community said the pollution issue is a longtime ongoing problem.
The chief admits his people too may have been irresponsible at times in the past and littered the lagoon but said they have lived there for the past 20-30 years and have seen drastic changes.
Chief Thompson says apart from the hospital, business houses such as resorts along the lagoon should be inspected by authorities concerned to determine whether or not they are also contributing to pollution through their sewage system.
Chief Thompson says in the past, the sea was clear and one could see the kokias shells when diving. However, these days the water is so murky one can hardly see anything.
He mentioned the lagoon smells different as well and there are not as many fish as there were a few years ago when the people in his community made a sustainable income from selling fish.
Chief Thompson is interested in meeting with other chiefs from the communities along the lagoon to discuss this issue as he says the pollution levels also pose a health threat to the people, and if the chiefs stand together they can have their concerns heard by the authorities responsible.
While the VCH Superintendent sympathised with those affected by the pollution, he also explained that the land across the road from the VCH from Seaside Police down to the lagoon where the Laken community lives is hospital land and the Laken Community have put themselves in danger by living on hospital land without a lease, next to a sewage facility which already poses a potential threat.
Dr. Harry added the houses at Seaside Police which are now occupied by police officers, used to accommodate doctors as they were built before independence by the Leprosy Foundation.
Vila Central Hospital issued with Direction Notice. Government fines Government?!
The Department of Curatives and Hospital Services has been instructed under a Direction Notice to repair and fix the Vila Central Hospital’s (VCH) Waste Water Treatment Plant that is discharging sewage water directly into the lagoon by December 4 this year or it will be penalized.
Independent tests from Griffith University has confirmed the Department of Water Resource (DoWR)findings of high contamination on the discharge area.
The treatment plant is not being maintained properly, inspections revealed.
Temporary measures must also be explored. Coastal monitoring is required before and after the repairs have been completed.
It is an offence for the Department of Curatives and Hospital Services not to comply with the Direction Notice.
Direct effluent discharge of sewage water into the lagoon is a breach of the Water Resources Management Act, said the DoWR.
The act states “a person who without authorization pollutes any water, is guilty of an offence punishable on conviction for a penalty of Vt5,000,000”.
Acting Director of the Department of Curative and Hospital Services, Johnson Wabaiat, confirmed the cause of the hospital waste into the lagoon as no proper maintenance of the treatment plant.
According to the DoWR, currently there is no qualified person managing the system,.
Acting Director Wabaiat conveyed yesterday that works to implement the conditions of the directive notice are underway at the executive level.
An expert will be engaged to conduct an assessment for the existing system and provide recommendation for improvement, he said.
It would cost over Vt1 million to conduct the assessment, he added.
Residents of Erakor and along the Seaside area have been voicing concerns about the waste water treatment plant issue for some time, said the DoWR.
“These issues of pollution pose threats to their health and livelihoods.”
The DoWR is taking action on the issue based on substantial data obtained for more than decade through monitoring, said Director Erickson Sammy.
Consultation is underway between relevant authorities and Erakor Community to issue a ban on areas at the lagoon that are highly polluted, said DoWR.
Fisheries Department talks but no action…
Government Authorities call on possible swimming ban, similarly to Fatumary Bay…. no decision made…. and many children still swim as of October 2021.
Tok Tok nomo: Possible Ban on Emtem and Erakor Lagoon
On the heels of the story that informed Efate of the bacteria called Enterococci which is currently present in Emtem and Erakor Lagoon, Director of the Department of Water Resources Erickson Sammy said that a ban on the lagoon is in the works.
According to the DoWR Director a meeting was held discussing a possible ban on Emtem and Erakor Lagoon, like the Fatumaru Ban, that would mean no recreational activities on the water and fines of up to VT1 million.
While nothing official has been done yet, residents along the lagoon have decided to voice their concerns and a few suggestions.
“I use to swim in the water all the time, people say the water is polluted, I swim no problem. I feel bad because I have been here for 33-years in this area and there was no news, I heard about first lagoon which was polluted by the hospital but I’m not living there, when it’s summer time I swim every day and I have no problem,” she recalled.
Ms. Mainguy suggested that there might be a few homes without a proper sewage system, thus taking advantage of the free-flowing water – “Maybe people have no toilets and they go to lagoon.”
The accusation of defecating in the water may not seem as outlandish as one may believe, another lagoon side resident Sergio De Sonneville proposed that the only cure for the lagoon is proper waste management sanitation.
“The best way to keep the water clean is to have proper septic tanks for each house, if this can be done, the lagoon can be free.”
A local woman renting in the area who wished to remain unknown remarked that she is scared of entering the water, due to the bacteria – “Before I used to swim in this place, just last year, now I’m frighten, there’s just plenty pollution.”
Hannington Nakamal owner Nadine Alatoa, which offers its guests a view over the lagoon said to keep people away from the lagoon is unfeasible, since they are dependent on its resources.
“It’s a big area for government to do its part, Erakor can do their part, I heard Erakor banned fishing which is good but I also heard that people break the rules, they fish, poverty is coming up,” she said.
Now that the lockdown has forced a substantial number of workers out of a job, Mrs. Alatoa believes that when push comes to shove, the laws by Erakor Chiefs or even the local government departments will be broken.
“People who live around the place, not in a good level of income, especially now with COVID they fish there and eat it, is it safe for eating? I don’t know. When you have a lot of people who are not making enough money, they will always break the rule, there are no enforcement officers to police it, it will require money to train them and government will have to do the same.”
She added that many residents by the lagoon are without personal vehicles, so swimming in the lagoon is the only option for them.
Attempts to get a comment from the Resorts along the lagoons have been futile.
Despite the lack in communication, the elephant in the room is more obvious than ever, with the border closure and now the tests results revealing the presence of fecal matter in the water, the enticing Resort lagoons are now faced with yet another challenge.
Littoral Resorts Address Contaminated Lagoon
Private sector seem that have nothing to do with Pollution at Erakor Lagoons and don’t seem to care about, blaming dippers floating on the Lagoons.
Owners of three Resorts along Emten to Erakor Lagoon have shared their views concerning the bacterium found in the water, which is another problem to tackle once the borders open.
General Manager of Tropicana Lagoon, Peter Forgaty mentioned that his staff have been going the extra mile in attempting to restore the lagoon to its natural beauty by fishing debris and other pollutants from the water but there the problem persists.
“You would have to say that it comes down to people dumping one of the biggest pollutants is baby nappies they’re terrible, people need to be educated, this can’t go on anymore, but to clean it up the boys do it, they don’t rely on the government,” Mr. Forgaty said.
As for the potential ban that could be placed by the Chiefs of Erakor and the government departments, Mr. Forgaty said that it wouldn’t do much of a difference if the borders remain closed, however, he does share a close relationship with the Chiefs.
“When they talk people listen and generally, they make an effort to organize a get together to explain what they are going to do, he does try to resolve things with the owners to see how it will impact them, the chiefs here, we invite them over we have kava and talk, we on good terms, but the nappies are just bad.”
Owner of Ramada Resort, Loic Bernier said that the news concerning the lagoon hasn’t impacted his business much, however, once tourism begins, it definitely will.
“Not much, but when we open it will be an issue, so far the hotel is located on a beautiful lagoon for clients to come and swim and kayak, at the moment there is not much use for kayak, only when tourist come in and then it will be an issue of course.”
Mr. Bernier mentioned that he has lived in the country for 30 years and the lagoon has “never been good”.
With the lagoons as the main feature that entices customers to the Resorts, Mr. Bernier said that as bad as it is, COVID-19 is worse and that is where his focus is at the moment.
Owner of Poppys on the Lagoon Resort, Sydney Grace located by the Erakor Lagoon where the contaminant is at its highest, Mr. Grace said as long as there are no tourists the water will not affect his Resort.
“Currently with no tourists it will not affect our business but will have a negative impact if the situation continues once the borders reopen.”
Mr. Grace mentioned that he has not received any notice regarding a ban on recreational activities by anyone, which means the Erakor Chiefs and government departments have yet to implement any measures.
“We are a bit using water activities, we have not been advised by anyone that we can’t use the lagoon.”
Despite the drop in tourism and the Enterococci bacterium found in the water, there may be a silver lining after all.
According to the Vanuatu Engie Laboratory Technician Lucy Obed, in a conversation with marine environmentalist Carlos Noronha, she wrote: “Note also that the reduced tourist activities have drastically reduced sewage effluent and certainly improve water quality”.
Now the only question is, how can everything continue in harmony together at the same time – open borders and clean lagoons.
The next analysis report on the lagoons for the bacteria Enterococci is scheduled for this month.
While government remains quiet on the reason for pollution at Erakor Lagoons, Communities continue to find the roots of pollution
Lekan Chief knows exactly where the Erakor Pollution is coming from. Authorities seem not to know till this moment…
Community Erakor Bridge pays its own water analysis
Contaminated Lagoons Force Chiefs to Act
While Government Authorities are focused on the Fatumary Bay, the front yard of Port Vila where many expats swim for leisure. Department of Water Resources announce severe penalties for swimmers and fisherman. No information on the status of the Erakor Lagoons Water quality, where people swim or bath every day for hygiene purposes due to the lack of sanitation infrastructure.
Communities by them self. Due to the lack of Authorities interest or lack of funding to pay for a 2700 vatu (VAT included) water analysis.
Water analysis on Emtem lagoon and Erakor lagoon by Vanuatu Engie Services have confirmed high levels of Enterococci, a bacterium which indicates the presence of faecal matter.
According to the laboratory analysis report, which was requested and financed by environmentalist Carlos Noronha, Emtem Lagoon showed 60% of the bacterium present, while Erakor Lagoon results were 100%.
Given the results of the water analysis, it indicates that the water channels from Emtem to the sea inlet at Erakor and everything in between is likely contaminated.
In the correspondence it also stated that “Results may fluctuate with respect to time, climate and recreational activities done along with the sampling locations. It is highly recommended to carry out constant monitoring analysis for better determination (monthly),” hence why another report is planned for next month.
The marine environmentalist is trying to create enough awareness to garner the attention of the government to prevent littoral homes and villagers from swimming and fishing in the water, with the goal of having a fine similar to the one placed on Fatumaru Bay.
“After getting the analysis results, I asked two Environmental experts to help me to interpret the results, once I am not an expert on the subject,” Mr. Noronha said.
These results were conveyed to the Erakor Chief, the experts highlighted the health risk the contaminated water posed which is best described in an extract by the United States Environmental Protection Agency.
“Enterococci are indicators of the presence of fecal material in water and, therefore, of the possible presence of disease-causing bacteria, viruses and protozoa. These pathogens can sicken swimmers and others who use the rivers and streams for recreation or eat raw shellfish or fish,” US-EPA stated.
The extract added that the potential health effects include diseases of the skin, eyes, ears and respiratory tract.
Upon receiving the health caveats related to the contaminated water, Chief Timothy Natongtong of Erakor Bridge Community who spoke on behalf of the villagers responded with a few suggestions for the government.
“We haven’t seen any public information about the quality of the waters of the Erakor, (1st and 2nd) Lagoons, so because we care for the population of Erakor, we decide to make the analysis in a Laboratory who meet International Standards,” the Chief explained.
Upon introducing the reason as to why the waters were tested, Chief Timothy spoke out against any water related recreational activities while requesting assistance from the government.
“We request the support of the Department of Water Resources and other authorities to enforce all existent rules regarding pollution, make the pollution legislation be stronger to protect our people and environment.”
According to the chiefs, if the government turns a blind eye to the plights of the chiefs raised in the communique, they will be forced to take matters into their own hands.
“The Chiefs will continue to monitor the water quality of both Erakor Lagoons. If the quality of the water doesn’t improve considerable towards acceptable health and environmental levels, the chiefs will use their authority to fine all of those who are not respecting this communication,” Chief Timothy said.
While the results may vary over time, the sheer acknowledgement of the bacteria in the water is troubling, and with the next analysis just a few days away, one can only hope for the best for the sake of all the Resorts and Hotels that are along the lagoons.
Kastom Fishing Ban
Few individuals, locals and exupats, continue to take advantage of the parallel authority systems and keep fishing fish and sea cucumber at Erakor Lagoons. Fisheries Department does not help and forced Chiefs to contact the media to clarify the fishing ban declared on the 26 May 2019.
Erakor marine ban remains
The marine protected areas covering Erakor waters is still in effect, representatives of the Erakor Council of Chiefs confirmed.
Speaking on behalf of Paramount Chief, Kalsau Kalomtak, Marik Waoute and Timothy Andrew Marikoftau said the have received reports that some people were seen fishing and diving in the protected areas.
The two leaders who have responsibilities under the Erakor Council of Chiefs called on the people of Erakor Village and members of the public to respect the ban.
“We understand that the State of Emergency is current, but, people must also respect the marine protected areas. The ban is not uplifted. People must not take advantage of the situation and partake in these restricted fishing activities,” the two leaders stated.
“We are doing this for the sake of our future generations. We want them to enjoy the marine resources just like we did.”
The two Erakor leaders warned that should anyone be caught for not respecting the marine ban, the individual or group of people will be brought before the Erakor Council of Chiefs and penalized
Erakor village to ban traditional fishing grounds
he Chief Administration Office of Erakor Village on Efate is placing a ban on its traditional fishing grounds on Saturday.
A notice has been put out to all villagers of Erakor that the Chiefs and Council will make the declaration at the village ‘Efare’ or community meeting hall this weekend.
The notice, signed by Chief Administrator Officer, Lierau Kaltack, states that the programme will start at 8am.
Everyone in the village has been asked to bring food to share at the ‘efare’ during the declaration.
Two main areas will not be affected in this traditional ban where people from the village can access seafood.
People from other islands living on Erakor land are also informed that the event will take place on Saturday (May 25).
Community of Erakor Bridge alert the Erakor Paramount Chief who halts World Bank project build by State owned Chinese company for the Government of Vanuatu
Erakor Chiefs protest against Cyclone Pam Road Reconstruction Project
Link to Daily Post, Adorina Massing, Sep 22, 2018
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.
Members of the chiefly group acknowledge Chief Koftau’s efforts, and he is assisted by Chief Marik Alvos responsible for security. They are using the namele leaf as a customary way of placing a Tabu on a certain spot, as was first seen at Man Ples area.
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.”
The Tragedy of the Commons
David Kalsau expresses his frustrations for the lack of interest of the official authorities in protecting the environment
Concern over alleged Lagoon pollution
Second Lagoon residents saying ‘no’ to bridge
Residents of the western end of the Second Lagoon (Emten) and custom owners are saying a loud “No” to plans to build a bridge across the lagoon at a point where it narrows.
The plans have been public knowledge since the lease to the large block on which was located the “Art Blong Yumi” cottage changed hands. The block is in a residential area even though Pacific Suppliers’ warehouse is on the other side of the main road.
Centenary banyan trees and mangroves destroyed for “commercial”…
With the removal of the small forest which largely occupied the block, and the subsequent dumping of huge quantities of quarry material, it has come to the attention of adjacent residents that the pipes bringing their water supply are located on the property which has changed hands.
Furthermore, the bridge would be across the lagoon waters to the “Tan” island lease which has had a checkered history. It was created by dumping ‘karier’ not needed for the round-island road project despite objections from adjacent custom owners. One such objection resulted recently in a successful court action against Kwila Limited. The island was originally to be “rural residential”, but this has been crossed out by hand on the lease title and replaced by “commercial / tourism” and bungalows have been built there.
The island is adequately approached by road from the southern side of the lagoon.
The Environment Department has repeatedly told residents that the plans for the “Art Blong Yumi” site will be made known to them. They are required by law to be consulted for any development other than residential, but public meetings have still not been held, and now it seems their lagoon facing properties are likely to look out on to a bridge.
Residents of the Korman area feel frustrated that consultations have never taken place. They are urging a petition.
Emten Lagoon has already had its tidal movements greatly affected by the existing Erakor Bridge at the northern end of the Erakor Lagoon.