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The Commissioner Central Division, Provincial Administrator, District Officer, the Naveicovatu Community, Invited Distinguished Guests, Relevant Stakeholders, Media Personnel, Ministry Staff, Ladies, and Gentleman.

1. Ladies and Gentleman, I’m delighted to here, amidst you all to commission the Vetiver for Riverbank Stabilisation Project. The is no better day to commission this project than today, as we celebrate the “International Day of Action for Rivers”. Using vetiver for riverbank erosion is the perfect action to demostrate that we care for our rivers and we are doing all we can to avoid it being suffocated with silt.

Warning to Protect Environment and Natural Resources
2. Ladies and Gentleman, to mark this important day, I would like to reiterate that government is committed to safeguard our natural resources. Our constitution guarantees this and we have our legislations in place. We will come out strong on enforcement of these legislations. There have been instances of:

a. Sea and river bank destabilisation;
b. Cutting down of mangroves;
c. Dumping of litter and industrial waste in our waterways;
d. Unsustainable and irresponsible commercial, industrial and agricultural practices which is posing a threat to our waterways; and,
e. Indiscriminate destruction of our natural resources for personal commercial gains.

3. Ladies and gentlemen, let me make it very clear that while we want investment, growth and development, and will support and promote it, but not at the expense of our environment and natural resources. We will not deprive future generations to derive the same benefit from our natural resources and environment as we have done. While natural resources provide direct benefit to current generation, the loss of these natural resources will not only deprive the future generation from deriving these same direct benefits, it will also deprive them of the environment whose value may not be measured quantitatively.
4. In this regard, while we will do our best to educate everyone on the importance of protecting our environment and natural resources, we will, at the same time, use the full force of law to punish anyone who attempts to do otherwise.

Nature Based Solution for River bank Erosion: Vetiver Grass Bank Stabilisation

5. Ladies and Gentleman, today marks an important day for Fiji. We are gathered here today to commission a nature based solution to serious problem arising out of climate change. We have begun a new journey of using vetiver grass to control river bank erosion. We are using nature based solution to a problem caused by nature..

6. Riverbank erosion is a natural and inevitable phenomenon and can be defined as a dynamic natural process which involves the removal of materials from the banks of a river. Rivers and streams are dynamic systems as they are constantly changing. The natural equilibrium, however, is exacerbated through our activities. Riverbank erosion is often accelerated through flooding, unsustainable land use, stream management, over-clearing of catchment and riparian vegetation, and poorly managed gravel extraction.

7. Ladies and Gentleman, unattended river bank erosion may have a major consequence on human settlements. Displacement is likely to occur in riverside regions where people are vulnerable to riverbank erosion, and this has multiple socioeconomic impacts. These include loss of home, agricultural land, assets, human health, and loss of accumulated human capital.

8. Ladies and Gentleman, in Fiji, a considerable percentage of the population live along the banks of meandering rivers and in other high-risk zones. While they have lived in harmony with the river in past, things have started to change now. These communities are more vulnerable now than ever before. Their personal safety and shelter, as well as sources of their livelihoods, are a threat from river bank erosion and its impacts.

9. Ladies and Gentleman, The Ministry of Waterways & Environment, through the Drainage and Flood Protection Programme intend to improve the lives and livelihoods of ordinary Fijians living along the rivers by providing adequate infrastructure to mitigate the impacts of the flood and river bank on our communities. This project specifically is aimed at increasing the resilience of these communities to river bank erosion and mass failure of the riverbanks. It also demonstrates our dedication to ensure our rivers are healthy and pristine.

Uniqueness of the Project: Community Based
10. Ladies and Gentleman, The purpose of this project is to restore river banks which are vulnerable to erosion through an integrated ecosystem-based community approach. The goal of this project is to reduce riverbank erosion through an ecological approach using vetiver technology, planned, delivered and maintained through communities, making this project a unique one. It is unique in the sense that it empowers the community to defend themselves from river bank erosion, and in doing so, evolving the techniques and building the necessary capacity to protect their communities. This project further reflects the responsibility and work taken up the Naveicovatu community towards ensuring our environment is in a better state for the future. I applaud the Naveicovatu community for having such foresight and taking up this responsibility to secure their existence from the encroaching river. Furthermore, in doing so you as a community are doing your part to help sequestrate carbon and help our nation achieve our commitments under climate agreements.

11. Ladies and Gentleman, we as a community need to take responsibility to ensure we are safe. This project perfectly illustrates an empowered community. With capital from MoWE, technical insights from MoA, the community has organized itself to take lead to address river bank erosion in their village. This is exemplary and I urge other communities to come forward and join us in using ecosystem-based approaches to address river bank erosion in their respective communities and at the same time generate income for the village community. This project is designed in such a way that the ownership and sustainability of the project stay with the community.

The Technology
12. Ladies and Gentleman, Vetiver system is a very simple, practical, inexpensive and effective biological measure for soil and water conservation. Vetiver grass was introduced to Fiji over 100 years ago and it has been widely used for soil and water conservation purposes for more than 50 years. Vetiver has been a very important component of soil erosion control on the sugar cane lands around Lautoka and Rakiraki from the 1960s until fairly recently. The Land Resource Planning Division (LRPD) of MoA has been involved vetiver systems to arrest soil erosion issues in farms. The Vetiver grass has distinctive morphological, physiological and ecological characteristics. Together with its tolerance to highly adverse growing conditions provide a unique bio-engineering tool for land stabilization, flood and stream bank erosion control. It is non- invasive, a good pollution control, thus making ideal for soil & water conservation.

This Project: Naveicovatu Village
13. Ladies and Gentleman, the Naveicovatu community, as a village has planted 400m of vetiver along the river bank, aimed at protecting the village from erosion. Furthermore, fruit trees are also planted to support nutritional security in the village with the surplus going to the roadside stalls or market on weekends. This project has been a village initiative, with both men and women involved in planting vetiver.

14. Ladies and Gentleman, there are multiple benefits associated with promoting vetiver for riverbank and slope stabilization. Some of these are;

a. Conserve soil (erosion control) and water (runoff retention/more infiltration) in the farmlands.
b. It is a low-cost bio-engineering tool.
c. It is a green technology, as such helps sequestrate carbon.
d. The tensile strength of vetiver roots is as strong and long (2-3.5 m) and has massive root networks which are very fast-growing, it is better than many types of trees which normally take 2-3 years to be effective.

15. Ladies and Gentleman, The river bank protection will further provide the following benefits to the Naveicovatu Village:
a. Protection of land, protection against erosion- losing lands
b. Stabilization of river banks-reduces the loss of agricultural land
c. Reduction of excessive sedimentation within watercourses, which silts up gravel beds and destroys spawning and invertebrate habitat.
d. Reduction of channel widening and associated flow issues.

Invitation to NGO’s and Private Sector to Partner
16. I would like to take this opportunity to urge, donors, NGO’s, and other agencies to promote vetiver, as a tool for riverbank stabilization and for erosion control purposes. We need to work together to scale-up such ecosystem-based approaches and use it as a vegetative candidate for bioengineering river stabilization work. I now wish to invite them provide funding and take ownership of matching commitment with us. We intend to do 50km every year. We invite NGOs to commit funding for 50km and the private sector to also come forward and commit funding for 50km. We also urge them to adopt this unique community base model whereby we pay them $12200 per km or $12.20 per meter of vetiver grass establishment. In this way, we can achieve 150km per year with full community ownership and imagine how easily we could achieve the dual objective of protection our river banks as well as contributing to a green environment while supporting the community as well.

17. Ladies and Gentleman, Riverbank stabilization is important; it is obvious that despite all our efforts, we have a long way to go for the effective management of our river banks. You will concur with me that the protection of the environment is not only the sole responsibility of the Government. The public at large have an important role to play and the Naveicovatu community has pioneered to lead this. I humbly request all of you to take care of our rivers, our rivers are our lifeline, and together we can sustain it and keep it clean for our future generations. I thank you all for joining us to celebrate this day to mark our life-giving waters, and appreciate all those who have worked hard to ensure that our rivers continue to flow !!!


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