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By Amelia Vunileba

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, Nov. 1) - Fiji's population has grown by about 52,823 since the 1996 count, according to the provisional 2007 Population and Housing Census figures released yesterday.

The provisional data released by Census Commissioner Timoci Bainimarama reflects dramatic demographic shifts.

For instance, the data shows that the Indian population decreased by 27,227 while the indigenous Fijian populace rose by 80,408. The total Indian population is tallied at 311,591 while there are 473,983 total Fijians. Other races make up 42,326.

The census, which began on September 16 and was conducted over 10 days, counted a total population of 827,900.

A little over half the population (421,086) lived in the urban areas. This was an increase of 61,591 residents when compared to the 1996 census.

Mr. Bainimarma said the Fijian population in the urban areas increased by as much as 49,427 and the Indian population in the rural areas decreased by 36,708. Only the central and western divisions' urban centers registered a rise in their populations.

For the central division, there was an increase of 43,236 residents, taking its total populace to 340,843. In the western division, an increase of 20,192 residents was recorded. The total population for this division was posted as 317,376.

In the rural areas, the number of Indian residents dropped significantly to 134,075. This is a drop of 36,708.

Of these residents, majority were formerly residents in the northern and western divisions. The rural areas in the north recorded a drop of 14,458 Indian residents.

Equally significant is the data that there are now 19,552 less Indian residents in the western division's rural areas.

The total population in the rural areas was recorded at 406,814. It is a reduction of about 8,768 residents. He said there was a decline in the northern and eastern population with each recording 8,909 and 1,696 respectively.

However, for all four divisions, total population had increased across the board in the urban areas but rural population had decreased for all divisions except the central division.

The central division recorded an increase of 37,637 Fijians, taking the total Fijian populace to 213,515. The Indian populace grew by 4139 residents while others by 1460 residents. For the western division, 152,243 Fijian residents was recorded.

This is an increase of 35,788 residents.

Further details of the provisional results will be released on Tuesday, said Bainimarama.

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