By RNZ.co.nz and is republished with permission.
Ten Fijian families living in a flood-prone area of the capital Suva are preparing to relocate from their homes, the government said.
The Government said the houses are currently sitting on the drain reserve and this restricts the Ministry of Waterways from carrying out maintenance and upgrades at River Road in Narere.
River Road has been prone to flooding with many homes at the informal settlement damaged during the recent cyclones in Fiji.
The cyclone season in the Pacific is from November to April. The 10 families will be relocated to the Millennium Lease area in Nausori.
A series of consultations have been carried out with the families since July 2020, the government said in a statement.
“But the relocation was put on hold in April of this year due to the Covid-19 outbreak.
“In September this year, the families were granted formal approval to build new homes in the Millennium development lease area.
“So far, five families have cleared land to prepare for construction while two more families have already commenced building their homes.”
The government said the families have also been granted consent to apply for water and electricity connections for their new homes.
The Ministry of Housing and Community Development is assisting the families with their relocation.
Meanwhile, the government said relocating villages is the last option.
The Minister for Waterways and Environment, Mahendra Reddy, made the comment while officiating at the ground-breaking ceremony for the longest stretch of nature-based solution sea-wall at Viseisei Village in Lautoka this week.
Dr Reddy said the $23,400 sea wall would directly benefit more than 800 people.
The minstry has not built a nature-based solution sea-wall of 500m and the new structure is for one of the largest villages, he said.
He added the sea-wall would also benefit more than 150 households.
With the cyclone season from November to April, the government said it was helping villagers prepare for any threat.
But Dr Reddy said relocating villages was the last option because houses in the villages represented much more than their physical structure.
“It is no longer a physical object that you move from one place to another,” he said.
“It is about the people, their livelihood, their culture, heritage and the bond with that place.”
Dr Reddy said Fijians settled near coastal areas some eight decades ago and proudly established their lifestyles accordingly.
“Their lives, culture and their source of livelihood is intertwined within the coastal areas which is now being threatened to the extent that some of these villages cannot be protected and need to be relocated.”