Degrading ecosystem

The shoreline has moved inland because of the effects of climate change. Picture: ATU RASEA/FILE

A local marine biologist is warning people against consuming seafood caught in waters near the Kinoya Sewerage Treatment Plant outlet in Laucala Bay.

In the 20 years that the University of the South Pacific senior lecturer Dr Antoine de Ramon N’Yeurt has lived in the Laucala Beach Estate, he has personally witnessed three significant things.

He has seen 10m of reserve washed away by increasingly severe cyclones and king tides caused by climate change, how indiscriminate dumping of waste has impacted marine biodiversity, how indiscriminate dumping of waste has impacted marine biodiversity, and what happens when authorities drag their feet on practical mitigation initiatives.

He said while coastal inundation and soil erosion were the area’s two biggest concerns, the consumption of seafood could lead to people falling sick and several studies had already been published about this issue.

Dr N’Yeurt said depending on the wind and current in Laucala Bay, backflow from the sewage treatment plant outlet could harm the ecosystem.

“I think if people fish here, it’s not safe to eat,” he said.

“I see a lot of people doing it but there is a lot of bacteria, E.coli and if you don’t cook it well you could get into a lot of problems.”

Dr N’Yeurt lives in coastal Laucala Beach Estate on Bulei Rd, among a handful of homes tucked inside an industrial area.

During the early 1990s, Laucala Beach was part of Suva’s growing industrial zone, its popularity resulted in more than 10 manufacturing and processing industries being established there.

Dr N’Yeurt’s home is located towards the end of Bulei Rd, it was one of the first houses built in the area.

Speaking to this newspaper, he reminisced the changes that had taken place since the development of the area.

“It was in the 1980s when they started reclaiming this area, in 1994 the first houses were built here and that time there was 10m of land in front, but this has now been washed away,” he said.

“This whole area was a mangrove swamp, right up to the top of the road where the bend is.

“So right now this area is under threat. “At the moment we are working with the Department of Environment to do something — like maybe to construct a seawall or revetment (fortification) with boulders.”

Dr N’Yeurt said soil erosion from coastal inundation continued to be a huge issue for the area, and it was getting worse by the day.

He said with cyclones getting more intense and stronger waves during high tides, replanting mangroves to protect the coastline should be undertaken with urgency.

“During Tropical Cyclone Winston, water came into my garden and during normal high tide, if there are strong winds, water inundates my garden also.

“The fence that used to mark the boundary at the end of my compound has been washed away, and at high tide the water encroaches one or two metres inside my property, if nothing is done it will eventually enter my house.”

Apart from the coastal inundation and soil erosion issue, Dr N’Yeurt said there was a lot of air and water pollution from the nearby Kinoya sewage plant and other heavy industries in the area.

He said depending on the wind direction, the Laucala Beach area would be filled with the stench of decaying fish or sewage.

Charlie Chan lives opposite Dr N’Yeurt. He said the property owner had to order soil every year and spread it around the compound – such was the level of erosion.

“When it’s high tide, the water enters the frontage and the waves take back all the soil so if there is a retaining seawall here, it would solve the problem.”

Mr Chan said dead fish, large crabs and prawns could often be seen floating in the water. “I think because of all the pollutants from the factories, this is  happening and sometimes you
can see white residue floating on the water.

“Sometimes we go fishing and we can’t eat what we catch because of the chemicals.

“I catch prawns at night and seashells like kaikoso and most times, they are dead.”

Mr Chan said the seawater safety issue was evident by the impact it had on those who swam in the bay.

“Sometimes when kids swim here, they get skin allergies, so that’s why I stopped them from going into the sea.”

He said apart from chemical and sewage effluent, another issue was debris that wash onto the property during high tide which was collected by the residents.

Mr Chan said this would include plastics, wrappers, plastic bottles, pieces of tin and commonly used products that you’d see on supermarket shelves.

“We really need to do something about this because it really affects people like us who live near coastal areas.”

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