Former M.P. warns against proposed Vaiusu Wharf Project

A former politician and ecological expert has warned that the Government’s proposed Vaiusu wharf project will have a “infinite environmental cost”, which will lead to the loss of biodiversity, accelerate flooding and lead to the displacement of communities.

Toeolesulusulu Cedric Schuster — who is a former member of Parliament and has expertise in biodiversity conservation, ecological surveys and customer resource management amongst others — said the cost of the project is too big a price for the affected communities to pay and people should speak up.

“We need the look at the other very real costs to the people of Samoa, these include relocating the majority families of the coastal side of villages from Toamua to Sogi.  As many as 10-20,000 people and businesses in this part of Faleata will need to be relocated. This whole area will be monopolized for the construction and dedicated to the wharf solely when its operational,” he said in a commentary, which was published in the June 16, 2019 edition of the Samoa Observer.

“The breadth and depth of environmental costs are infinite. Highlighting a few such as loss of biodiversity, loss of significant ecosystems, flooding, and increasing vulnerability to climate change natural disasters are too obvious not to highlight. The intricate balance between environmental issues and income and livelihood must be expressed.”

Toeolesulusulu said the people of Faleata stand to be some of the most affected communities, if the project is allowed to go ahead, as the cost for relocation and rebuilding of new facilities such as schools are huge.

“In addition to the actual costs which will be incurred by the Government of Samoa, the people of Faleata will incur personal costs for relocation, community development such as churches, maota ma laoa, schools will all need to rebuild elsewhere.”

The loss of income for the families who rely on fishing should also not be downplayed, added Toeolesulusulu, as the local fisheries will be impacted by the work in the multimillion tala project.

“There is also the major loss of income for those depending on fishing within the aloalo and the togatogo by way of fish, tugane, sea, and many other fisheries.  The impact on the inshore will not be confined to only the wharf area, but will extend as far as Aana.”

Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi has recently defended the project, in response to reports by the New Zealand media, that the Chinese government will be the main beneficiary of such a project.

The proposed wharf will cost $250 million tala and will be funded by the Chinese Government according to Tuilaepa. 

The Prime Minister said discussions to build the proposed wharf at Vaiusu began between 1970-1973 during the term of then P.M. Tupua Tamasese Lealofi, when a study concluded that it was the best location.

But Toeolesulusulu said the country did not need a big wharf, when it did not have the economy to warrant the building of such infrastructure. The expanded Matautu wharf is able to process the cargo requirements of the country for the next 10-20 years, he added.

“Samoa should never try to compete with Fiji which have enormous lands and already has two major ports that are regional hubs for transshipment. Their environment can deal with the damage, which our Vaiusu Bay isn’t able to, as they are natural harbors compared to Vaiusu Bay’s shallow inshore reef,” he added.

“But if Government's vision to construct yet another white elephant against their propped-up egos, then they should follow the Human Rights Protection Party mantra and seriously consider wharves in other more natural ports around the country, such as Fagaloa for Upolu, while Asau and Palauli for Savai’i to go along with the Salelologa wharf.  Such an undertaking will put less stress on the natural environment but will also really create employment throughout the country and reduce stress on the Apia Urban Area.”

See below for the full commentary by the former politician.


Why the proposed Vaiusu wharf should never be built

Toeolesulusulu Cedric Schuster

 

I want to share three important key issues with those who are willing to objectively listen to the concerns and reasons Samoa should not allow the proposed VAIUSU WHARF TO BE BUILT.

Firstly, such an unnecessary expensive undertaking can bankrupt the future economic independence of Samoa. The proposed cost of USD$300m is financially prohibitive for our small economy to sustain any future repayments. The wharf will not bring any substantial income to the country to offset the cost of its own development.

The wharf construction cost is realistically only 30-35% of the actual overall real cost to the people of Samoa.  We need to look beyond the cost of  the actual wharf, possibly USD$300m for building the wharf, of which it its almost certain that 80-90% of this money will go back to the donor who will have conditions that only to companies from their country can bid to build the wharf. We need the look at the other very real costs to the people of Samoa, these include relocating the majority families of the coastal side of villages from Toamua to Sogi.  As many as 10-20,000 people and businesses in this part of Faleata will need to be relocated. This whole area will be monopolized for the construction and dedicated to the wharf solely when its operational.

The breadth and depth of environmental costs are infinite. Highlighting a few such as loss of biodiversity, loss of significant ecosystems, flooding, and increasing vulnerability to climate change natural disasters are too obvious not to highlight. The intricate balance between environmental issues and income and livelihood must be expressed.

Economic impacts are high risk and will have a crippling effect not just on the government, but also on the people in the affected villages. All other ancillary developments such as drainage, resettlement costs, roading, and utilities associated with the wharf will likely be sourced from other international financial institutions and the costs will be in the millions as well.  In addition to the actual costs which will be incurred by the Government of Samoa, the people of Faleata will incur personal costs for relocation, community development such as churches, maota ma laoa, schools will all need to rebuilt elsewhere. There is also the major loss of income for those depending on fishing within the aloalo and the togatogo by way of fish, tugane, sea, and many other fisheries.  The impact on the inshore will not be confined to only the wharf area, but will extend as far as Aana. 

The basic economic fact is that the cost for the Vaiusu development wharf will pale in comparison to any of the trumped-up returns that are being touted from those in positions of power and greed.  The gluttonous attitude of our current government will force many generations of Samoa to repay these loans over the next 50-100 years.  However, the reality is that the creditors will take something of dear to Samoa when we can’t service the ballooning debt that will be saddled on the future generations. Samoa will lose its economic independence and quite possibly our nation’s independence as well.  How is it that today's Government and even today’s generation have lost their sense of ownership, pride of culture and value of communal ethics and mores. Our ancestors fought and died to gain independence from previous strongholds, but the present leadership do not hold our own history, our own independence or our own natural resources and livelihoods in high regard.

Now anyone that promotes the idea this wharf provide jobs for the people is selling half-truths and not accounting for the commercial and domestic job losses let alone the loss of livelihoods from destroyed inshore marine resources.  Jobs for jobs is a model that will not add value to our economy. Simply stated, once the wharf construction is completed, many jobs will be made redundant.  As the world is moving into mechanization of ports, very few people will be employed at such as wharf, therefore the only people that will make money for such a development are DONORS AND CONTRACTORS (and the under the table deals). This type of industry will not have a lot of supporting industries that can provide employment for the people not directly involved with the wharf.

Secondly, is the disconcerting and worrisome Cultural impact, especially for people of Faleata and surrounding areas.

Having the wharf will require relocating the Malae and Maota of these villages as the proposed wharf will be literally and figuratively constructed on these very important cultural heritages. It is almost certain that some of the more iconic sites of our march to independence such as Tupua Tamasese Meaole’s grave and the Mau movement location fale will be relocated to make way for the wharf.  O le a faalagi foi I le vao malae ma maota o Faleata once this wharf does come to fruition. Most of the homes along the coastal area and extending to the main west coast road will be removed for the wharf. Families now living in these areas such as Sogi, Mulinuu, Fugalei, Vaimoso, Lepea, Vaitoloa, Vailoa, Vaiusu, Vaitele, and Toamua will have to resettle somewhere else or you will be left with to fend for yourselves.  An example of what will happen is what is already happening to the villages of Apia, Matautu and to an extent Vaimoso at the moment with Apia Urban Area. A lot of the traditional lands for Apia and Matautu villages now belong to other entities while the families of these villages only occupy the very small areas of their traditional lands. Many of the families have been fanned inland to allow for developments while what we now know as Apia is basically for the rich that can afford to pay the expensive land costs.  Another sad evidence will be the loss of the traditional village connection to its ancestral and cultural grounds much like what is happening to Satapuala and Satuimalufilufi where their lands are being leased out by government and profit from it, while the people only look from the side with no more rights to it.  

Thirdly, the wharf is a climate disaster and environmental catastrophe waiting to explode: Apia urban area including much of Faleata will be flooded even more if the wharf is built. What people need to know, is that a lot of the creeks and rivers in the Fugalei to Vaiusu area drain into the Vaiusu Bay that is now being targeted for the wharf. As flooding continues to increase in frequency and intensity due to CLIMATE CHANGE, the Apia township and all that sits within it will be flooded regularly. Furthermore, with the cutting of the mangrove forests that currently act as protection from sea level rise, and deepening of bay for the wharf, high seas will flow easily into the bay during high tides and cyclones, thus exponentially increasing the climate vulnerability of the area.

 

Despite so much investment over the years have poured into addressing the drainage for the Apia township since the 1970s’ flooding and ponding will continue to be problematic due to the geological basic facts that the outfall in Vaiusu Bay is higher. For Tuafusi, Fugalei, Vaimoso, Lepea, Vailoa, Vaiusu villages that have vaitafe flowing through your villages and drain into Vaiusu Bay, these will severely be affected when the Vaiusu Bay is blocked for the wharf.  Furthermore, all the vital ecosystems important for climate change mitigation and for the livelihood of the people of Faleata will be stripped away forever. The pollution from the construction and later operation of the wharf will kill the fish and marine life of the inshore from Faleula all the way to Aana. So, take note all of Tuamasaga people that rely on inshore fisheries for livelihood, this will have severe impact on you also. IF you want examples, look no further than Pago Bay and several of the impacts its experienced over the years; luckily for them, they do not have an aloalo like it exists in Northern Upolu so much of the pollution flows straight out to the open sea. This is different to the Apia-Aana inshore reef where its shallower so a lot of the pollution will settle inshore.

A WAY FORWARD

Samoa does not need a big port to accommodate its miniscule export and imports. The renovated Matautu wharf is able to service the needs of the country at least for the next 10-20 years, this is the TRUTH. Anyone else that says otherwise is promoting fear and propaganda to you Samoa.  Samoa should never try to compete with Fiji which have enormous lands and already has 2 major ports that are regional hubs for transshipment. Their environment can deal with the damage, which our Vaiusu Bay isn’t able to, as they are natural harbors compared to Vaiusu Bay’s shallow inshore reef. 

But if government's vision to construct yet another WHITE ELEPHANT against their propped-up egos, then they should follow the HRPP mantra and seriously consider wharves in other more natural ports around the country such as Fagaloa for Upolu, while Asau and Palauli for Savaii to go along with the Salelologa wharf.  Such an undertaking will put less stress on the natural environment but will also really create employment throughout the country and reduce stress on the Apia Urban Area.

FINAL PLEA

I really do hope that the alii ma faipule of the affected villages will objectively review the impacts to assist them on their decision-making as it the future of the villages are in their hands.

I also hope that all the environmentally concerned citizens will see this for what it really is and speak up. Any finally, I hope that this will go beyond the political wrangling that seems to infect our country but have all concern people come together to STOP this from happening.

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