III. EXISTING INSTITUTIONS AND MEASURES FOR INTEGRATING ENVIRONMENTAL CONCERNS INTO DEVELOPMENT PLANNING AND DECISION-MAKING FOR SUVA CITY
E. National government agencies that have an impact on the Suva environment
Of all the national government agencies the Ministry of Health has the greatest responsibility and direct impact on the environment of Suva. A range of diseases are linked to urban socio-economic and environmental problems such as poor informal housing, overcrowding, poor sanitation and hygiene, the absence of running water and poor nutrition.
The Ministry of Health is responsible for the Public Health Act which is implemented in collaboration with SCC and other local government authorities. The law on public nuisance under the Act provides some remedies for a multitude of environmental problems which have harmful health effects. Some specific situations which are considered to be a nuisance under the Act include: unsanitary streets, improperly kept water supplies; building refuse deposits; animal and bird shelters; polluting factories and businesses; overcrowded informal (squatter) housing; overcrowded cemeteries; and polluted harbours, rivers, ponds, ditches and foreshores.
Under the Public Health Act, local authorities such as SCC are vested with powers to control nuisances in their sanitary districts for public health and safety reasons. They are required to conduct inspections, determine sources of nuisances, and issue instructions for their abatement. Health officers or sanitary inspectors have the right to enter premises to examine the existence of a nuisance source at any time.
In response to air pollution, a National Air Pollution Control Unit was recently established by the Ministry of Health with the task of planning and implementing air pollution control programmes for the prevention and control of atmospheric pollution. The Unit is still in the start-up phase and needs further development. The services of an industrial chemist are required together with adequate laboratory facilities that provide full analytical capabilities.
Surveillance of water quality is done by the Ministry of Health pathology laboratory at the Colonial War Memorial Hospital. The laboratory carries out regular bacteriological monitoring of drinking water supplies. The Ministry of Health is also responsible for vector control. Dengue fever and filariasis are the most important mosquito-borne diseases prevalent in Fiji at present, although the incidence of both is sporadic. They are as much an urban disease problem as they are rural. In 1995, 21 per cent of the reported cases of dengue and 22 per cent of the filariasis cases occurred in the Suva area. Fiji is fortunate that it does not have malaria and a number of other mosquito-borne diseases.
Perhaps the most conspicuous pollute in Fiji is the cement manufacturing plant at Lami, on the outskirts of Suva. The factory smoke stack discharges large quantities of dust and particulates, and especially sulphur dioxide. Particularly effected by dust, smoke, odour and vapour are the surrounding residential areas from Uduya Point to Veisari. The Ministry of Health and the local government authorities have proved powerless in controlling that major public health problem. The factory is owned by Fijian Holdings Ltd, which represents indigenous provincial interests. It represents an excellent example of the protection of an import substitution industry with the full costs involved not being taken into account. It is also an example of communal interests taking preference over broader community interests. It remains to be seen whether or not the situation with respect to the cement factory will change with implementation of the Sustainable Development Act.