Namara Informal Settlement is Convenient for Settlers
The largest squatter settlement in Vanua Levu has grown over several years.
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.
Homes are built over the mangroves and wetland in the Namara informal settlement in Labasa.