19 Feb 2004

Fiji's capital trying to cope with influx of squatters

8:04 am on 19 February 2004

The Fiji capital is reported to be coming under enormous pressure from a soaring squatter population caused by the country's socio-economic problems.

The Fiji Times reports that 63 percent of the country's total squatter population of more than 82-thousand now live in Suva.

The director of housing, Dharam Lingam, is quoted as saying the expiry of thousands of land leases in other parts of Fiji has contributed directly to the rise in Suva's squatter population, with some families coming with their dismantled houses.

Mr Lingam says the Government has acknowledged the problem but cannot tackle it alone and is looking for partnership programmes with local governments.

The police, the Suva City Council, the Health Ministry and the Public Works Department all agree that their resources are strained by the explosion in Suva's population.

The chief executive of the Health Ministry, Dr Lepani Waqa-taki-rewa, says overcrowding in squatter settlements is causing a serious health risk because of issues like waste disposal, sanitation, poverty and malnutrition, as well as water and hygiene.