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Site of deadly Savai'i landslide remains closed

The area of land in Tafua, Savai'i, where a landslide last October claimed three lives, remains closed.

This was confirmed by a matai from Tafua, Poulava Foai Maua, who said safety is the main reason behind the village’s decision to keep it closed.

“Safety is an important thing and for us that is one of the reasons we put a stop to soil mining and closed this area,” he told Samoa Observer.

“We learned from what happened in the past and that has taught us a great lesson. Money is important, but life is more precious.”

Other land belonging to the village is still available for soil mining as long as they have permits, added Poulava.

“There are also penalties and punishments for those who don’t abide by the law and the village’s decision to stop digging this particular area of land.”

Stopping people from mining the sand and soil is the village’s way of supporting the Government’s decision against land degradation.

“We’ve been working really close with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (M.N.R.E.) to solve this issue.

“When they (M.N.R.E) delivered sign boards to inform people about the effects of land degradation, some of the villagers opposed it.

“This is because some suggested that bringing a sign board means allowing the Government to control our lands. But that’s not the case as we have come to an agreement to work together to restore our lands from being eroded.”

Pa’o Talie Foliga, project manager for Strengthening Multi Sectoral Management of Critical Landscapes, shared the same sentiment.

“We’ve designed a management plan for the village of Tafua,” said Pa’o.

“It is like a framework to guide them on how they take care and look after their land, especially after the landslide that took place last year.

“This management plan was based on feedback from the village and the matais of the village. We (M.N.R.E) did not come up with this management plan. All we did was assist them with writing and putting together this framework.”

The management plan, said Pa’o, consist of all the issues faced by the village in relation to soil mining and the strategies on how to resolve such issues.

“It includes all the issues that are faced by the villages and also some of the strategies or solutions to the issues raised by the village. So that has been done and we’ve given the village council the management plan for them to implement and use it to protect their lands.

“As you are aware, 81-82 per cent of land ownerships in Samoa belong to matai of families and villages so there is no power and authority that allows us to control how they use their lands.

“But it is our hope to work together to make sure no life will be in danger and also to sustain our lands for our future generations.”

Last year three men — who were employed by a brick-making company — lost their lives when there was a landslide on the mountain they were working under. Two others sustained injuries from the landslide and were hospitalised. 

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