The Fiji Times

Shifting the smoke


THE revelation by Local Government Minister Maciu Nalumisa that major health hazards caused by fires at the Vunato Dump Site would soon be a thing of the past is encouragin­g. In fact, people of Lautoka who have suffered over the years will greet this news with great anticipati­on. It’s something they want to hear. It is long overdue. They will tell you many stories of frustratio­n over the years. They talk about health concerns, and about challenges they faced. They will be able to talk about the negative impact on their lives, and how they have been forced to cope with something that happens almost every year.

Now to hear that plans are in the pipeline to relocate the dump away from the city would make them happy. It does not tell us though about the impact such a move would have on those around the new site. This isn’t going to be an easy thing to fix.

Mr Nalumisa made the announceme­nt to Lautoka ratepayers this week at the launch of a new convenienc­e facility for women involved in recycling. He spoke about the planning stages to relocate the dump site to a more suitable location, away from the city, and establish a landfill and associated recycling facility. He hoped it would address what he termed the “nuisance experience­d from the frequent fires at the dump site”. Lautoka residents have faced challenges with their dump site over the years. On September, 2022, arson was identified as the cause of fires at the Vunato landfill and police were informed. At the time, Lautoka City Council chief executive Mohammed Anees Khan said this in response to claims by some residents that fires at the dump site had been intentiona­l to reduce the volume of waste.

The council, he said, never used fire to clear out the piles of rubbish, but instead used an open aerobic and evaporatio­n/decomposit­ion method for the management of the landfill site. Residents were advised to keep their homes well-ventilated in the face of smoke that came from the dump fires. Mr Khan also raised relocation plans. A year earlier, in August, 2021, Mr Khan had reiterated rubbish collected at Vunato was spread and compacted using a bulldozer. He said the council was also promoting the separation of garbage at the source to reduce the rubbish load going to the Vunato dump. In July this year, LCC said fires at the landfill happened during dry months of the year. Following repeated concerns from residents of thick smoke over a few days that month, Mr Khan sought help to fight the fire and added that security guards were placed around the area. He said the council would set up CCTV cameras around the dump to monitor the area along with fire control resources, including a submersibl­e pump. Lautoka residents with chronic diseases were also urged to avoid visiting the Vunato area where a blaze emitted a cloud of smoke for several days in July. The plea came from the Ministry of Health and Medical Services which expressed concern over the health risks caused by the smoke.

“Inhalation of smoke can worsen respirator­y conditions and pose health risks,” a Health Ministry statement said. Residents near the area were advised to wear masks. So, it makes sense then that this latest talk of relocation will be eagerly anticipate­d. We now wait for action. The greatest challenge for the powers that be would be to make it work! Otherwise they may just be shifting the problem elsewhere!

That too by child labour from schoolchil­dren and charitable businesses.

I believe it is the Fijian way.

Once the dilapidate­d Nadi Bus Station is fixed, the volunteers and charitable businesses can then work on the Nadi Hospital.

The potholes can be fixed later in the year.

After that someone can donate adult nappies to senior citizens who cannot hold their water after consuming copious amounts of grog all day and wonder why they suffer from this condition.

We must look after our retirees and senior citizens because they are full of wisdom which they pass on to our children.

These are the reasons why I have suggested that grog dopeys should form a party for the upcoming municipal elections so that they can fix the problems in their respective towns and cities.

They would be more effective than relying on this hopeless government.


Sydney, NSW, Australia

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