Fiji Times

SUVA, Fiji (Feb. 1) - That there is a high level of pollution in the Suva Harbor is well known and has been a concern to environment and health authorities for many years.

Everyone is aware that industrial waste, sewerage and toxic substances from the Suva rubbish dump flow out into the harbor. Add to that the oil spills and fuel discharge from ships anchored in or coming in and out of the harbor and you have a very highly unhealthy situation.

The sad part is many people fish in the coastal waters and women are seen almost daily looking for shellfish along the Nasese beachfront for their families.

Studies had shown that the level of toxic substances in the harbor and coastal waters towards the mouth of the Rewa River poses health risks.

People who fish along these areas have been warned by health and environment authorities over the risks they face. But most of the housewives who regularly use these coastal areas do not own boats or cannot afford to hire boats to go out to the reefs or further out to sea to fish. The coastal areas and beachfronts are more convenient and easier for them. For many of them, the health risk comes second.

A group of concerned individuals had formed the Suva Harbour Foundation to raise public concern over increased pollution in the harbor. Their goal is to see the Suva harbor clean.

The foundation organizes clean-up campaigns for the Suva foreshore and promotes the use of canvas shopping bags rather than plastic ones. It has also compiled regulations relevant to the harbor, which they hope to share with the city council.

Not only Suva Harbour but also the Lautoka foreshore had been found to be highly polluted with heavy industrial waste. What we lack is a proper and thorough study by environment and health experts to determine how much pollution is over safe levels in the main harbors.

If the level of pollution is well over acceptable international standards, it may be wise to ban fishing and consumption of seafood from these affected areas.

Last week, the New South Wales government in Australia banned all commercial fishing in the Sydney Harbour after tests found dangerous levels of poisons in marine life. The tests on fish species found high levels of dioxin, which can cause cancer and birth defects. The level of dioxin in fish was 100 times higher than accepted standards.

We do not know yet whether our two major harbors have similar levels of poison in fish caused by pollution. Only proper tests can tell us that. And we urge those in authority to conduct such tests immediately for the sake of people's health and well-being.

February 2, 2006

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