4 Feb 2004

Fiji rural area loses water supply in pay row

8:37 am on 4 February 2004

Indigenous villagers in Fiji have cut off water supplies to a rural community of 400 people and are demanding 10-thousand US dollars to restore it.

The Fiji Times reports that the villagers only became landowners at Qelelevu in the interior of Ba last year when the government transferred large tracts of state land to indigenous groups.

The newspaper says for 21 years the community and their school had had free water supply from a catchment which had been built by the government and a community co-operative society when the area was state land.

The three-week dispute has forced more than 400 residents and 80 students to use rivers, creeks and wells.

A spokesman for the villagers says apart from 10-thousand US dollars, they want 3-thousand dollars in goodwill and 35 dollars from each family every year for the sue of the water.

The school head teacher, Sada Nand, says there are serious health risks because students are being forced to use muddy waters from creeks and cannot flush toilets.

Police have referred the matter to the Native Lands Trust Board which says it is not aware of the dispute.