Government should declare disaster in drought stricken areas

December 11, 2015

Media Release

Government must declare a Sate of Natural Disaster in the Western as well the Northern Divisions instead of waiting for the Fiji Meteorological Office make a technical assessment. This must also include Yasawa and Mamanuca Islands.

We already have a disaster on our hands. Government must accept this. The prolonged drought is having a debilitating effect on crops, livestock and has dried up wells, creeks as well as other water sources.

It is also clear that Government is unable to cart regular emergency water supplies to drought-affected areas. Reports in the media have well documented the plight of our citizens. On Thursday Government through the Commissioner Western said emergency water supply was only for cooking and drinking.

This means that personal hygiene of at least half of our population in these two Divisions is under severe threat. It also means that both people and livestock will have to scourge for water sources.

This is unacceptable.

In Parliament during debate on the 2016 Budget on 18th November, the NFP’s motion to increase allocation for disaster rehabilitation from $1 million to $10 million was defeated by the Fiji First Government which simply used its numerical superiority to ensure any Opposition Motion no matter how meritorious and of national importance would not be approved.

Even the Minister for Agriculture and National Disaster Management spoke against the NFP’s Motion using technicalities of classification of a drought and disaster saying any declaration would be by the Fiji Meteorological Office. This is nonsense.

Having voted against the Motion the Attorney General and Minister for Finance, following his tour of the Western Division told Fiji Village News on 2nd December that residents of Kavanagasau were drinking water from wells that had frogs in them. This alone should urge Government into action.

The immediate priority now is regular emergency water supply, not delivery of water every week, and that to only two 44-gallon drums of water. Every State resource has to be harnessed to ensure timely delivery of adequate water supply to our stricken people so that they are able to use it not only for cooking and drinking, but washing, bathing, cleaning and feeding livestock.

The next priority should be to draw up and implement a Crop Rehabilitation Programme for our sugarcane and agricultural farmers so that they are able to salvage and at the same time rehabilitate crops and livestock.

This is not a time for political posturing. Our people are suffering and his is the painful reality.

The ball is in Government’s court.

Biman Prasad

Leader