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The Chief of Solwota (Sea) for the Erakor Council of Chiefs, Patrick Waoute, stressed that the weak governance from relevant government bodies is killing the Emten and Ekasup Lagoon, an ecosystem fishermen and residents depend on for livelihoods.

He said while there have been ongoing community efforts to save the lagoon, authorities such as the Department of Water Resources (DoWR) and the Department of Health must step up their efforts.

Chief Waoute called on the DoWR to be stricter with the enforcement of a ban it has imposed on the lagoon.

He is concerned that the ban has done almost nothing, as people continue to swim and fish and the pollution concentration is increasing with development activities happening in and around the lagoon occupied by settlements and industries.

The chief responsible for fisheries and environment said they want to see some punishment or sanction given to anyone caught breaching the ban. He said there is a need to involve police in helping government authorities on implementing law and order like stopping pollution and stopping people from swimming or fishing in the lagoons to protect them.

The DoWR welcomed the concern from the Erakor Chiefs’ Council. The department said it could not conduct community awareness about the ban last year, as the focus was shifted to disaster response activities, and funds to carryout awareness are yet to be approved by Parliament.

Waoute,who was appointed recently to the National Water Advisory Committee (Water Taskforce) conveyed that they have not met in a long time to deliberate and provide advice on water issues.

This appointment came after meetings with Ministry of Climate Change focus on the implementation of the Chiefs led Erakor Lagoon Restoration Plan from which multiple government authorities are stakeholders.

He said the Department of Health which depends on the lagoon to discharge its treated sewage waste must also step up efforts to restore the health of the marine ecosystem. It has taken too long to upgrade the Vila Central Hospital Sewage Treatment Plant, he said.

Last week, the department announced funds for the upgrade have already been approved and works are expected to be complete by mid of this year.

Waoute said the Ministry of Infrastructure has a responsibility to construct the drainage systems in a way to minimize pollution going into the lagoon while the Department of Environmental Protection and Conservation ensures human activities do not harm the environment.

(2024) It seems acceptable and normal to build swimming pools in the Erakor Lagoons

The chief said the Department of Urban Affairs and Planning, the Department of Fisheries, the Department of Tourism, Department of Youth, Port Vila Municipality and SHEFA Provincial Council can also help to protect the lagoon.

A swimming pool is being build 20 meters from the Erakor Bridge in Tassiriki inside the Lagoon.

This works were suspended after the community outcry towards lack of basic compliance with environmental protection and destruction of livelihoods. What is role of the Erakor Council of Chiefs and inputs in such decision?

After two years of suspension the works now continue. It is unknown if there is a Environmental Impact Assessment approved by the Department of Environment Protection and Conservation or if the Port Vila Municipality are aware or licensed this works.

(2022) Works stopped for two years – presumably by competent authorities, then restarted again – – presumably with consensus of competent authorities…

2018

Around the Erakor Lagoons, this is not the first time that authorities suspend illegal constructions and, later on and for some unknown reason, make them legal

2016 destruction of a banyan tree forest that became an illegal dumpsite, recognized by DEPC and now a construction site.

2022

Chief Natongtong

2023

Authorities