“We do not inherit the earth from our parents; we borrow it from our children”….North American Indian proverb.
Pope Francis once said: “Destroying the Earth is Sin”.
“Safeguard Creation,” he said, “because if we destroy Creation, Creation will destroy us!”
“Creation is not a property, which we can rule over at will; or, even less, is the property of only a few: Creation is a gift, it is a wonderful gift that God has given us, so that we care for it and we use it for the benefit of all, always with great respect and gratitude,”
Leo Nainoka | Social Empowerment & Education Program (SEEP) | 25 October 2018
The over-riding concerns of the Church and certain NGOs like SEEP has been centered on the inequitable distribution of the Earth’s resources.
We would like to focus our attention on the greatest victim of unjust decisions – the rural communities.
One of the themes of Social Justice is “Stewardship of Creation” and it is very important to take note of what Pope Francis said “Creation is a gift that God has given us so that we care for it and we use it for the benefit of all.”
There are still so many proposed extractions, gravel extraction on rivers and logging being planned in Fiji.
There are so many in the tenement list and maps by the mineral resources department. There is a plan to mine bauxite in Wainunu, Bua. There is magnetite mining earmarked for Sigatoka river by Dome and Gusunituba river in Votua, Ba by Amex. There is ongoing bauxite mining in Dreketi.
There is also plan to mine Namosi of Gold and copper but the Tikina Namosi landowners Committee are holding up well and of cause there is a plan to mine gold in Tuvatu, Sabeto.
Before every mine plan is given the green light there needs to be proper EIA – Environment Impact Assessment process conducted by independent consultants and Fisheries Impact Assessment for gravel extraction and harvesting code of practice for logging
We must first of all examine our ideas on development. Those who are proposing these kinds of development must first of all understand the meaning of development. What really does development mean to us?
Women of Votua selling crabs
While it is true to say that buildings, equipment and money are useful and necessary for development purposes we must be really careful to remind ourselves that development must focus on human beings and not things like infrastructure and so forth. The core of development has to be people centered.
Early French Philosopher, writer and historian – Francois Marie Arouet, well known as Voltaire once said “Don’t think money does everything, or you are going to end up doing everything for money”
In a Globalized world that we are living in, there is more hunger for more money instead of focusing more on human beings.
The focus of every development initiative should be people. Sustainable development is development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the needs of the future generation’s.
The village of Votua, Ba are not really happy on how their “qoliqoli” will be used to extract black sand or magnetite.
In the Fiji Times of 9th July, 2018 it was reported that “Villagers are still in the dark on black sand extraction”. It went on to say that “some villagers of Votua in Ba claim they have been in the dark regarding black sand extraction in Ba River which according to locals the real name of the river is “Gusunituba”
The village of Votua has three clans – Yavusa Narai , Yavusa Nadua and Yavusa Balavu. The heads of these three clans told us, Social Empowerment & Education Program – SEEP that “they said yes only to exploration” not extraction.
The location of the extraction site is a food bank and livelihood for the people of Votua, Ba. It has contributed to their daily sustenance, education for their children, their community hall, their church and their school.
Proposed extraction site
The three heads of clans are asking the Government to put a stop to this project for the sake of their people, not only for themselves but for their future generation as well.
Awareness raising and community education are extremely important in relation to conservation of fresh water and sea water resources.
This topic also warrants attention in school curricula and adult education programs, including health awareness programs. Again the Churches should play a leading role in encouraging understanding and commitment.
There were no proper due diligence conducted with the people of Votua, Nawaqarua and nearby settlements. There was no free, prior and informed consent.
Free Prior and Informed Consent is an extraction of UNDRIP for all Indigenous peoples of the world and the right of all Indigenous peoples to be fully informed and to reject or give their consent based on their own collective decision making process to any project that concerns them.
All facts must be shared to the communities where they can base their decision and agreement by the people is without force or manipulation by outside parties or the State.
The indigenous people have their right to their land and their resources and must be free from hazardous materials. They have the right to redress.
According to the people of Votua Village, their Marine resources are very important to their daily needs.
They also said that if these extraction project is given the green light it will drastically threatened their livelihood and very disruptive to coral reefs nearby. Several saltwater and freshwater species are endangered by this unsustainable practice. According to experts extraction causes profound effects on biodiversity.
Makereta Ranadi and Mikaele Seru – looking for crabs to sell
Mangroves are largely found on both sides of the river bank in Gusunituba, Votua, Ba. If these mangroves are lost or if there are mangrove canopies, this will result in diminishing the values of subsistence and commercial fishing by the community of Votua, Nawaqarua and nearby settlements.
Fish, crabs, land crabs, reef fish, prawns, mud crabs, turtles, ark shell, freshwater mussels and other varieties of resources from the river and the seafront can all be threatened if this project is given the green light to go ahead. The environment and the economy are two sides of the same coin.
Most local communities all over the world are resisting environmental destruction of their local habitats and communities but it will be good for the Government and companies to engage with communities like Votua, Ba and provide awareness and bring them on board to understand the effects of this project on their culture, their social lives, the degradation to their environment and their livelihood and how it will have an impact on our weather patterns.
The Social Empowerment & Education Program – SEEP together with communities of Votua, Nawaqarua and nearby settlements believes and hope that good sense and wisdom will prevail, allow for proper consultation and let the communities understand the effects on their environments, their social lives, culture and give them the space to properly discuss these and make their own decision whether to mine or not to mine.