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Asia Dive News : Fiji's damaged coral reefs cannot wait for inept politicians

SUVA, Fiji - An environmental group has criticised the Fiji government for its inaction over shipwrecks scattered throughout Fiji's waters.

The Mamanuca Environment Society claims that despite developing Fiji's environment into a drawcard for its multi-million dollar tourism industry, government has done little to see that it is protected.

Society project officer, Alifereti Qauqau said government had to start acting like it cared for the environment because if polluted or destroyed, the tourism industry, which has become Fiji's highest income earner, would gradually die out.

Mr Qauqau said the Government has shown no initiative in trying to clean our waters even when there are several shipwrecks polluting the Suva Harbour, in full view of the legislators sitting in Parliament.

"We are concerned about the environment because our waters are being polluted by shipwrecks," he said. "There is a shipwreck that has been sitting on a reef in the northern Mamanuca Group for about three months and the Government has done nothing to see that it is salvaged."

Qauqau identified the vessel as the Lurong 2221, is owned by Hangton Pacific in Suva.

Mr Qauqau said apart from the damage to the reef, the shipwreck was also polluting the nearby environment due to the stench that emanates from the bait onboard and damage caused by fuel residue seeping into the ocean.

Mr Qauqau said Government had to step in because the shipwreck was lying close to several islands, Modriki, Monu, Yanuya and Tavua that are frequented by tourists.

Mr Qauqau said with resorts in the Mamanuca Group enjoying high occupancy rates at the moment, it was vital that the vessel was removed because it painted a negative image of Fiji's environment and attitude towards its protection.

However, the Minister for Local Government and Environment, Pio Wong, pleaded for patience saying that its lack of action was the whole point that Government had pushed for the new Environment Bill.

Mr Wong said when the Bill comes into effect in January, his ministry would be equipped with resources to carry out the necessary work that was required to remove all shipwrecks in Fiji's waters.

"When the Bill comes into force then we will have the power and resources to see that the environment is fully protected," he said.

Source: Fiji Times