Victims punished in Port Vila’s dirty harbour

It is not really a surprise to find out that Port Vila harbour is badly polluted.

The town’s population continues to increase and spread along its shore as does development, both residential and commercial.

There appear to be few rules or controls and even fewer qualified Municipal employees to assess the sustainability of proposed projects or to monitor construction to confirm that they are complying with even the most basic rules with properties near the harbour, i.e., no sewage should be finding its way into the sea.

In fact, National and Municipal authorities rarely appear to show any concern regards effluent, wrecked boats and other rubbish being deposited into the entrance and frontage of the Nation’s capital. However, a newly gazetted notice from the Department of Water Resources regarding the Port Vila Harbour really does come as a surprise.

As I say not so much that it states that “the high level of bacteria which exceeds standards for recreational use” or that “a person must not use the water located within boundaries set out in the Schedule for the purposes of swimming”.

Rather it is the second part of the Notice that states that anyone found swimming in the zoned areas will be fined Vt1 million or put in prison for two years or both! Is this for real? The news has not been widely disseminated, the copy of the Notice that made its way to this reporter came from a member of a Port Vila swimming group.

So far there seems to be limited comment. We await signs along the newly beautified harbour frontage that confirm and alert swimmers to the ban, potential fine and/or imprisonment. How do the customary landowners feel about this? No word yet either from Tourism Vanuatu, “Welcome to our beautiful South Pacific Paradise”…just don’t swim in our polluted harbour or you will be fined Vt1 million. Tourists can probably avoid the prison sentence.

Perhaps we have only half the story from the Department of Water Resources. Maybe they have also issued, or are about to, a similar notice to property owners and authorities responsible for the contamination of the harbour, where they have stated that a 12-month amnesty is given for people to rectify their sewage/waste systems or they will be fined Vt1 million or two years in prison or both. We look forward to some further clarification from the Director of the Department of Water Resources.

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