Bula Vinaka and a very good morning to you all.
It is a pleasure to be here to break ground the new Nabouwalu Packaged Water Treatment Plant.
A decade ago, Fiji’s water and waste-water sector was at serious risk of regressing. Years of under-investment and short-sighted planning had produced ageing and increasingly unreliable pipes, treatment plants, reticulation systems, and other water and waste-water 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 waste-water 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 build back better to protect and improve water and sanitation access. And we are getting that job done through novel and sophisticated solutions that my Government alone has proven it can supply.
Since 2009, we’ve allocated over 1.56 Billion Dollars towards water and waste-water 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 waste-water 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 the water supply is cut due to burst pipes or other asset damage.
We have just commissioned a 20 megalitre raw water treatment plant in Waiwai in Ba last week, and another treatment plant in Savusavu yesterday. Today our development journey has taken us back to Nabouwalu. In nine months’ time, this patch of land will be home to a new 2-Mega-Litre Packaged Water Treatment Plant, a 1 Mega-Litre Reservoir, related pipeworks, electrical works, and backup and operating gensets which will reliably supply clean drinking water to over 2,800 Fijians in Nabouwalu. This new water system will be able to handle high turbidity levels –– which means it can supply water even during storms and floodings; an issue that I know has been a serious problem for your communities.
When this development is complete it will be worthy of Nabouwalu’s future and the expanding network of infrastructure we’ve built in your area – including the recently commissioned Nabouwalu Fire Station.
The world has never been warmer or filled with more climate risks. Regardless, we are making sure that Nabouwalu will have its most reliable water and waste-water supply in history. And as we have seen in Ba and most recently in Savusavu, when we make promises, we deliver. We will deliver for you as well, just as we’ve delivered so many life-changing developments for your communities before. I can’t wait to be back to see this project complete.
Vinaka Vakalevu. Thank you.