Bhagwan: Revoke their lease

Listen to this article:

Reverend James Bhagwan is calling on the government to revoke the lease given to a Chinese development company for more than 36 hectares of mangrove forest and land along Queen Elizabeth Drive in Nasese. Picture: VIDEO/GRAB

Well-known environmental conservationist Reverend James Bhagwan is calling on the Government to revoke the lease given to a Chinese development company for more than 36 hectares of mangrove forest and land along Queen Elizabeth Drive in Nasese.

He claimed the proposed tourism project would destroy one of Suva’s last remaining mangrove areas and would threaten biodiversity in the area.

He said the company claimed to be building “an integrated tourist development” and people should not take those words at face value.

“We have to be careful of words like integration because it does not mean integrated with the environment, it means integrated activities and businesses,” Mr Bhagwan said.

“I guess out of sight is out of mind because from the road, you don’t see all this biodiversity.

“This is the most significant mangrove area in this part of Suva or Laucala Bay.

“And especially because you don’t see it from the road, you might think that the one at My Suva Park, or just in the front, is all there is.

“But this is where the life is, where it’s nurtured. “And to cut that down is to destroy our future.

“When we think about all the statements we make as a nation or our government makes on our behalf about protecting the planet, this is a carbon sink that we’re about to destroy and the message is simple, we need to protect the biodiversity of Fiji, of Laucala Bay and this will do it.”

Mr Bhagwan claimed the company was given a five-year lease from 2018 to October 2023 and in that lease there was a provision for a 99-year lease afterwards.

“The message is very simple. We just need the Government to revoke the lease or to not sign on the 99 years. “That’s all. Protect the tiri, this is our responsibility as Fijians.”

The Fiji Times has sent questions to the Ministry of Local Government, Department of Environment and the Prime Minister’s Office for comment in relation to the statement made by Mr Bhagwan.