The Honourable Ministers;
Vua na Turaga ni Yavusa Nasolo;
Your Excellencies and Members of the Diplomatic Corp;
Water Authority of Fiji Board Chairman and Members;
Water Authority of Fiji Chief Executive Officer and Staff,
Members of the Media and Private Sector;
Ladies and Gentlemen.
Bula vinaka and a good afternoon to you all.
I hope you all had a very happy Constitution Day! Today that celebration continues by putting one of our most important constitutional protections into practice: The right of every Fijian to clean water and adequate sanitation. It is both my personal commitment and my duty as your Prime Minister to do everything possible to see that right realized everywhere in Fiji. Today, that mission has brought us to Ba to commission the new Waiwai, Ba Packaged Water Treatment Plant.
Before we celebrate this development, I want to review what was required to get us here.
The challenges Fiji faced a decade ago in the water and wastewater sector were enormous. Years of under-investment and short-sighted planning had produced ageing and increasingly unreliable pipes, treatment plants, reticulation systems, and other water and wastewater infrastructure.
Fiji was left extremely vulnerable, not only to the traditional pressures like an increasing population but to new and worsening challenges like the climate crisis. Cyclones, like TC Winston, have shown they can disrupt or even demolish old and cheaply built water and wastewater assets. Changing weather patterns place us at risk of having both too little water in the dry season – as droughts can starve our reservoirs – and too much water in the wet season, as heavy rains can contaminate raw water and produce flooding that damages pipes, treatment plants, pump stations and manholes. Unchecked, these events could make clean water and sanitation harder than ever to access in Fiji –– erasing generations of development progress in a matter of years, or even hours, as we saw during Cyclone Winston.
We were not prepared to watch helplessly as that happened. We are mustering the investment, the political will, and, above all, the vision necessary to expand water and wastewater access in Fiji.
This is modern and evolving challenge that demands novel and sophisticated solutions; solutions which my Government alone has proven it can supply.
Since 2009, we’ve allocated over 1.56 Billion Dollars towards water and wastewater projects. Those resources have built resilient infrastructure that can withstand climate impacts –– because we understand that we must either pay now to build back better or risk much higher costs on our communities when future storms strike. We have replaced pipes and valves, built and upgraded reticulation systems and reservoirs, protected freshwater resources, and expanded wastewater treatments. We’ve also ensured equity by providing free water to low-income families. In times of drought, we’ve carted water to the most remote regions of Fiji. And we do the same anywhere in Fiji whenever and wherever water supply is cut due to burst pipes or other asset damage.
Our actions are helping to avert the worst. Instead of being driven backwards by the headwinds of the climate crisis, our investments in our water and sanitation assets are taking Fiji forward for the benefit of the communities you call home, the businesses that you run and that you rely on for your livelihoods, and your health and well-being.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
This project is a dream delayed for your communities due to the extreme difficulty of building during the global COVID-19 pandemic. Travel restrictions and shortages around the world simply made it much harder to deliver the inputs we needed to deliver a project of this scale. But our persistence and your patience have paid off –– we can see that clearly in this resilient and reliable piece of infrastructure.
The previous Waiwai Water Treatment Plant was older than the nation it served. Built over 60 years ago, it had a treatment capacity of 13 million litres per day. This new station almost doubles that capacity to 20 million litres daily.
It can handle high turbidity levels –– which means it can supply potable water even during storms and floodings. This plant also has a 330KVA backup Genset granting Ba township, its communities, industries, and businesses a level of resilience and reliability never known until now.
This raw water treatment plant has been constructed at a cost of $9.46 Million Dollars, every dollar of which was funded by your Government for the benefit of over 46,000 Fijians, as well as the manufacturing industries and businesses in the Ba district. And it is built to enable new connections as new needs arise in the years to come.
We don’t need to read a report on sustainable development to understand the value of clean water and reliable sanitation in our lives. We all know that access to safe, potable water is critical for national development. We drink water, we use water to stay clean, grow crops, and transport goods, as we rely on water sources, like our rivers and reefs, for food.
Without reliable infrastructure, people have to spend entire days fetching water for their families –– a burden that is borne mostly by women. The absence of proper sanitation means the prevalence of preventable diseases and tragically shorter and lower quality lives. The cleaner our water is and the less exposed to dirty water that we are, the healthier we can become. That simple truth is the moral and development imperative behind the investments in water and wastewater infrastructure we’ve delivered across the country.
In this regard, the Water Authority of Fiji is also undertaking massive new development projects such as the Rewa River Water Supply Scheme to ensure the continuous supply of potable water for Fijians living in the Suva-Nausori corridor –– the most populous region of the country.
My friends, despite the cyclones, the floods, and the global pandemic, this promise of a reliable, resilient, and future-oriented wastewater treatment plant has been delivered.
The world has never been warmer or filled with more climate risks. Regardless, we are making sure that Ba has never had a more reliable water and wastewater supply. Your communities have been made safer, your development aspirations are set on a stronger foundation, and your children’s future is more secure. And the best is yet to come: Ba will continue to share the benefits of the proven leadership my Government supplies, the promises we make and keep, and the vision we are always working towards of a stronger, more modern, and more compassionate Fiji. That is more than my duty as your Prime Minister –– it is my personal commitment to each of you.
Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.