In response to the TV news item about the above mentioned matter on Wednesday 16th January, 2007, Public Rental Board makes the following comments in reply:
We are very much aware of the plight faced by tenants of Labasa, in particular those in Naodamu and Vunimoli estates. The recurring flood at regular intervals is something well beyond everyone’s control. The suffering experienced by tenants and those in surrounding neighborhood with frustration caused through disturbance of flooding cannot be under estimated because for them it would have meant loss of personal belongings, household items, financial loss and the emotional strain on them.
Public Rental Board is helpless on its own. We are merely responsible for internal drains within the estates; main drains are the responsibility of Labasa Town Council. But then, the main drains flow out to Labasa River which runs through town. We have stressed with the council over the years that unless the main drainage system is improved, we cannot see any improvement on the feeder drains and as well as this the housing subdivisional drainage that feed onto the main drains.
The drainage problem in Labasa is not new. The Council and other local stakeholders cannot resolve flooding on their own. If we are going to help people affected for the long term we need to fix the root of the problem.
Over the years, Labasa River has been on the receiving end of effects of logging and perhaps poor land utilization practice up river. The river bed is getting shallow. Any excessive rain will cause the river to flood and the matter is made worse because Labasa town is sitting on flat ground; the overspill will back up into residential and other areas of the town.
The only solution to the flooding problem at Labasa is to dredge Labasa and Qawa Rivers. Government should seriously look at attending to this. Rather than doing band aid solutions, helping the people for the long term we need to tackle the main cause of the problem as outlined above. We have seen improvements dredging have done in other areas of Fiji namely Rewa River for the delta and Ba River for Ba town and surrounding areas.
It may come as a relief to our tenants that PRB plans to carry out general maintenance for Naodamu estate this year.