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Our recent trip to Bua highlighted the speed at which construction of the Nabouwalu to Dreketi highway is progressing. Following a good spell of weather, extensive roadside clearing and leveling had been undertaken along the stretch between Nabouwalu and Dama, which was a hive of digging and landscaping activity.
The project represents a major upgrade of the former road, creating a tar-sealed highway that will improve connectivity and access to markets as a part of the Fijian government’s Look North Policy that seeks to encourage economic development on Vanua Levu.
Speaking with the Provincial Administrator for Bua in the course of management planning workshops, local people acknowledged that their access to services will improve and sought to identify further opportunities for local development. They also highlighted gravel extraction from local creeks and rivers as a concern, questioning whether requirements for Environmental Impact Assessments were being met.
We experienced another issue in the village of Wairiki, where the tap water was visibly discoloured by soil particles after a night of heavy rain. The village chief took us to their water source, a borehole around 20-30 meters below a sloping area that had been cleared for the road. He spoke to the foreman, who set off to investigate further.
Big changes are bringing new opportunities and challenges to communities in Bua. This visit certainly showed how vital and immediate these are, and how important it is for communities to understand and address them in order to protect the local ecosystems on which they rely.