II. ENVIRONMENTAL IMPLICATIONS OF GROWTH AND DEVELOPMENT IN SUVA
A. Loss of coastal resources and land reclamation problems
Certain developments which have occurred along the coastal zone of Suva have had a significantly adverse impact on mangrove ecosystems and fisheries. In 1984, a warning was issued that mangroves, often regarded in the past as wastelands by planners and developers, were being used for domestic refuse and sewage disposal and land reclamation. The reasons were either because of a lack of foresight or a desire to acquire more waterfront land. Little or no regard has been paid to the importance of mangroves in the marine food chain or the problem of leaching of pollutants during periods of high rainfall. A clear example can be seen at the refuse dump at Lami which is located in a reclaimed mangrove swamp. Data on the type and level of pollution are unavailable as the polluting source and monitoring agent are Suva City itself. However, water pollution around the dump site is extensive. A number of industries discharge their wastes directly into coastal waters. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the extent of the pollution is serious. Fish caught off Suva harbour have on occasions have a distinctly oily and kerosene flavour, while marine life in the harbour has been degraded. Shellfish found in the coastal areas of Suva absorb sewerage waste and the population of Suva has been advised not to eat the local shellfish because of the danger of hepatitis. Despite that problem, Suva harbour and Laucala Bay remain a major source of food for low-income residents.
The pressure of increasing population together with unemployment and a shortage of affordable housing has led to a proliferation of squatter settlements. It is estimated that one Suva resident in eight is now a squatter. A number of the smaller squatter settlements are on marginal coastal land in, or adjacent to, mangrove swamps. Such settlements create great disruption in the mangrove ecosystem, especially as a result of refuse and sewerage disposal and the cutting down of mangroves for firewood. According to the Fiji Poverty Report, 23.3 per cent of urban residents in Fiji use a pit toilet and 18.4 per cent use wood for cooking fuel. In coastal areas most of the wood comes from mangrove swamps.