Na­mara In­for­mal Set­tle­ment is Con­ve­nient for Set­tlers

The largest squat­ter set­tle­ment in Vanua Levu has grown over sev­eral years.

Fiji Sun - - Nation - SHALVEEN CHAND Paulini Elder Bal Kis­sun Moape Vulini­wai Health is­sues Edited by Jonathan Bryce [email protected]­jisun.com.fj

Just a lit­tle over two kilo­me­tres from the town­ship of Labasa is Na­mara – an in­for­mal set­tle­ment which has grown rapidly over the years. Ac­cord­ing to the peo­ple who re­side in the man­grove swamp and wet­land, the land is free and all they have to do is clear the land and build their houses. And with Govern­ment’s hu­man­i­tar­ian per­spec­tive most of th­ese houses now have ac­cess to wa­ter and elec­tric­ity. Na­mara set­tle­ment is the largest squat­ter set­tle­ment in Vanua Levu, sit­u­ated on the river delta formed by the Wailevu, Labasa and Qawa rivers. Houses in Na­mara squat­ter set­tle­ment are mostly built on stilts and at high tide the wa­ter reaches un­der­neath most of the houses. The Na­mara Sew­er­age Plant and

the Labasa rub­bish dump are lo­cated south east of the set­tle­ment. Paulini Elder has been liv­ing in Na­mara for seven years now. Formerly of Wailevu, she moved there af­ter get­ting mar­ried.

“My fa­ther gave us build­ing ma­te­ri­als and we built a house here. We did not have to pay for the land. It is free. Any­body can come and set up their bound­aries,” she said.

“I have no prob­lems liv­ing here. It is close to town, the buses come here and schools are close.”

Most res­i­dents liv­ing there have sim­i­lar sto­ries. Some are dis­placed farmers who did not get their leases re­newed and have since moved away from farm­ing. Bal Kis­sun from Co­geloa, has been liv­ing in Na­mara for al­most two decades.

“Af­ter the farm land lease did not get re­newed, I moved here. I just had to move the tin and wood from the farm and bring it here,” he said. “I did not seek per­mis­sion from any­one to set­tle here. My chil­dren have grown up here and now have good jobs.”

Mr Kis­sun owns a ve­hi­cle and even has a Sky TV con­nec­tion. Then there are cases like Moape Vulini­wai. He lives there with his wife and five chil­dren in­clud­ing his brother and his wife and three chil­dren.

Mr Vulini­wai and his brother are fish­er­men. Their boats are berthed out­side their homes. They push the boats out to the Labasa River when the tide is high. This is also when wa­ter flows be­low their house.

“I find it bet­ter for my chil­dren to live here. Schools are closer and so is the town. If we were in our vil­lage in Bua, we would walk miles and still live in a house sim­i­lar to this,” he said.

Ini­tial set­tlers in Na­mara sought per­mis­sion from the Na­mara Vil­lage more than 30 years ago. Soon af­ter­wards, oth­ers started mov­ing onto the re­claimed State land nearby.

The availabili­ty of the so-called free land has given rise to the num­ber of fam­i­lies liv­ing there. In 2012, a re­search into Na­mara by the Uni­ver­sity of the South Pa­cific listed 70 fam­i­lies to be liv­ing in the largest in­for­mal set­tle­ment in the North. Seven years down the line this num­ber has dou­bled. On the south-east side of Na­mara are the Labasa Sew­er­age Treat­ment Plant and the Labasa Rub­bish Dump.

There have been cases of scav­eng­ing at the dump, but a se­cure boundary and con­stant watch has seen that re­duced.

As the area is mainly a wet­land, the ma­jor­ity of the fam­i­lies still build their toi­lets over the man­grove land.

Min­is­ter for Health and Med­i­cal Ser­vices Dr Ifer­eimi Waqain­a­bete said the min­istry’s pub­lic health team con­ducted aware­ness cam­paigns to en­sure that health prob­lems did not arise in in­for­mal set­tle­ments.

“This is some­thing which we do through­out Fiji. The Min­istry of Health re­alises the im­por­tance of hav­ing aware­ness in in­for­mal set­tle­ments,” he said.

“The Min­istry of Health also re­alises the health risks in such set­tle­ments as well.”

The Lo­cal Govern­ment Min­istry has al­ready high­lighted their ef­forts in re­duc­ing the num­ber of in­for­mal set­tle­ments in the coun­try.

Photo: Shalveen Chand

Homes are built over the man­groves and wet­land in the Na­mara in­for­mal set­tle­ment in Labasa.

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