Bula Vinaka and a very good afternoon to you all.
Due to the worsening storms and stronger rains inflicted by climate change, flooding in the West has been rising in severity for years. Having just put another very wet cyclone season behind us, I don’t need to stress the need for flood alleviation measures to any families in this division.
Unabated through the coming decades, floodwaters could wash away billions of dollars of development in Nadi and across the country. And that’s only considering what can be measured in dollars – the true cost would be measured in the shattered dreams of hard-working families forced to watch flood after flood devastate their homes, schools and farms, and steadily erode their sense of security.
We’ve taken decisive steps to avert that future. We won’t let Nadi’s aspirations of city-hood be drowned out by rising rivers, and we won’t let coming generations suffer from our inaction today. But taking on an issue as enormous as climate-fuelled flooding takes big ideas and even bigger investments.
In the case of the Nadi watershed, our work has centred around harnessing two mighty forces of nature: The Nawaka and Mosi rivers. Through a strategic agenda of investment, we’ve erected powerful buffers between floodwaters and Fijian communities; the Nawaka 1 and 2 dams and the Mosi 1 and 2 dams. Today, we officially add a fifth: The Mosi 3 Dam.
Together, this network of flood alleviation infrastructure has constrained untold tonnes of raging river waters from inundating your crossings, seeping into your homes and businesses and putting your lives at-risk. That’s not to say they’ve stopped flooding completely. The Nadi River Catchment covers a vast area, and we’ll need many more investments – such as the Nadi River Flood Alleviation project – to stave off severe flooding entirely. But these dams have still spared Fiji from a great deal of economic devastation. Over the past year since its completion, the 30-metres tall Mosi 3 Dam has kept waves of deadly flood water upstream and out of Fijian communities.
The vast majority of the time, the Mosi river flows through this dam as it normally would, so the impact on the surrounding environment is minimal. There’s also a fish ladder that provides migrating fish with a detour route to the other side of the dam, so there’s no loss for fishing communities downriver. But in times of heavy rains, this dam kicks into action, holding back peak discharges and keeping water levels at reasonable levels downstream in the Nadi Town area.
This project represents a massive investment, $1.8 million dollars. But the cost of doing nothing, and letting flooding continue unmitigated, would undoubtedly be far higher. That’s why our work won’t end with this new dam. The Ministry of Waterways will soon begin work on the Mosi 4 Flood Retention Dam in the next fiscal year. And, once the world begins recovering from the global COVID-19 pandemic, we’ll resume work with our development partners on the bulwark of the West’s flood mitigation strategy: the Nadi River Flood Alleviation Project.
So, in celebrating this nearly two-million-dollar achievement, let’s renew our commitment to building a resilient Fiji. For the sake of every family on the frontlines of floodwaters, we won’t rest until every Fijian – including the over 70,000 who call Nadi home – can go forward and prosper, knowing that their lives and livelihoods are adapted to the worsening impacts of our changing climate.
I’m sure you all may have some questions about the next steps for Fiji’s health directives relating to COVID-19. We’re finalizing our assessments on how we responsibly take Fiji forward into the post-COVID era, and we’ll have announcements to make this week, at the launch of our new mobile contact tracing application, on the re-opening of schools and the scale back of other measures.
Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you and God Bless!