B. Government measures for dealing with the litter problem
The Anti-Litter Act brought with it a significant improvement in the Suva litter situation. Long-term residents of the market area said they had "never seen the market looking so clean". While the improvements appear to have lasted significantly longer than when the Anti-Litter Decree was introduced in 1991, the programme again seems to be running out of steam. In the priority market area that can, in part, be explained by the hostility that currently exists between the market vendors and SCC over market fees. Plastic supermarket bags have again returned to the streets as the main receptacle for household garbage awaiting collection, despite an initial flurry of prosecutions. Part of the problem is the tardiness in emptying the garbage skips supplied by SCC. A letter to the editor of The Fiji Times (Chamberlain, K., 'Rubbish skips', 11 June 1997) noted that:
"The Sekoula Road Neighbourhood Watch Group applauds the powers that be who, within 24 hours of our last letter being published, installed a bright green rubbish skip at Nokonoko Road beside the worst area for dumping. It took three days to fill which is an indication of how much rubbish would have otherwise gone into the creek and ended up on the reef. The big question we are now all asking is: will it be emptied each time it is filled? "
To obtain a feel for the problems resulting from the implementation of the Anti-Litter Act at the street level, several days were spent with health inspectors on their anti-litter enforcement beat. The new measures were generally welcomed by most people, with the exception of some of those apprehended for littering. During the first month of the Act coming into force, 32 summons were issued for littering offences. Of that total, only five offenders chose to pay on-the-spot fines. Warnings were issued to a further 84 persons. Within the first few days of enforcement an enforcement officer was assaulted by an offender. The inspectors dealing with anti-litter enforcement did not view the assault as a deterrent to their work. However, they now work in pairs which makes the situation easier and safer. The assault incident is symptomatic of other serious problems faced in attempting to enforce environmental laws in the absence of strong public support.
The inspectors saw the size of the area to be covered as a major obstacle in trying to enforce the Anti-Litter Act. They cover 2,700 hectares of land which includes 600 streets, 17,179 premises with a population of 70,000 residents, and another estimated 80,000 persons who commute daily into the city. The inspectors would like to see an substantial increase in personnel to enable them to widen their coverage. That is unlikely to occur during the current financial climate and is probably unnecessary. The appropriate approach would seem to make random checks in strategic areas. The key is that the programme is ongoing and must be kept in the public eye if it is to have a sustained impact. It is notable that the draft Sustainable Development Bill addresses the problem of limited manpower resources for enforcement by increasing the number of designated litter authorities to include statutory authorities and concerned government departments. However, that will placed increased demand on coordination.
Another problem that persisted after the enactment of the new legislation was that of identification. Unless an offence is committed in front of residences or business enterprise, enforcement officers still cannot prosecute those people who give false names and addresses. The inspectors have requested that carrying identity cards be made compulsory. However, because the issue of a national identity card goes far beyond the enforcement of the Anti-Litter Act, it is the subject of ongoing discussions with the national government.
Another problem is that the health inspectors who enforce the Anti-Litter Act are not fully recognized as representing a higher authority. They would like to have some sort of uniform which indicates a certain level of authority such as that held by police. The inspectors have also complained of unrealistic performance targets. If booking targets are not achieved the supervisors believe that the inspectors are not doing their job. However, a quick analysis of the situation indicates that the system is open to abuse. Since it is common practice for offenders to provide false information, an inspector could simply give bogus names and addresses in order to increase his rating, thus defeating the whole purpose of establishing targets. The problem could be solved if it became compulsory to carry an ID card.
One inspector claimed that he had not issued a single booking. He simply warned people, despite the objections of his immediate supervisor who was, in turn, under pressure from his superiors. The inspector felt that people needed time to adjust to the new law. The apparent conflict between supervisors and inspectors needs to be resolved, and it highlights the lack of vertical communication that often prevails in Fiji. At the horizontal level, coordination and cooperation are far better. The litter inspectors regularly discuss ways of improving the system, and within the limited discretion allowed them, they have taken initiatives to improve the system.