FIJI’S POLLUTED SUVA HARBOR THREATENS FISH, PEOPLE

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FIJI’S POLLUTED SUVA HARBOR THREATENS FISH, PEOPLE

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, Feb. 1) – Fiji’s Suva Harbour is highly polluted, with a concentration of heavy metals from domestic and industrial waste that threaten marine life, officials say.

The Environment Department's national coordinator for International Water Program Ms. Sundeep Singh said high concentrations of copper; iron and zinc existed in the harbor.

Singh, who conducted major research on heavy metal contamination of the harbor in 2000 and 2001, said the matter was not helped by the presence of the Lami Rubbish Dump on the coastline, residues of paints from anchored ships, littering and overflow of septic tanks into the harbor.

She made the comments amid concerns at the danger to humans from eating of fish and shellfish caught in the harbor and surrounding areas.

Singh said the department needed to conduct further research to advise people if they should stop eating seafood from the area. But, she said, more resources and better facilities were necessary before such a task could be conducted. She said the Lami estuary and the Walu Bay industrial area were sites where the presence of metals was highest.

Singh said the Environment Department had plans to rehabilitate the Lami Rubbish Dump to ease the pollution problem. The Suva Harbour Foundation has raised concern about the increase in the number of pollutants at the harbor.

Foundation president Colin Philp said the situation in the harbor over the past two weeks had worsened. The foundation has in the past, organized clean-up campaigns for Mosquito Island and along the Suva foreshore. It has promoted the use of canvas or paper shopping bags rather than plastic ones.

The foundation has compiled up-to-date laws and regulations relevant to the harbor, which it are hopes to share with the city council. The foundation has collected about 30 legal instruments, including the Seaports Management Act, Fisheries Act, Wreck and Salvage Act, and the Drainage Act.

"We are working on ways to see that the legislation is in place. Despite the pleas we have made, not much has been done and there is no enforcement done on the legislation," said Philp.

He said last September the foundation had notified authorities of pollution events and advised the Suva City on the management of Mosquito Island but nothing had been done.

The foundation had drawn attention to derelict vessels abandoned in Suva Harbour.

Health authorities had earlier warned about the level of toxic substances flowing into the harbor and surrounding coastal areas, which are frequented by people fishing and collecting shellfish for the family dinner.

Raw sewerage from the Nasinu area is polluting coastal areas that are popular fishing spots for commercial fisherman and villagers on the Rewa delta.

[PIR editor’s note: According to the United Nations Foundation-funded organization ReefBase, heavy pollution in Suva Harbor has degraded coral reefs in the area. ]

February 2, 2006

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