Daily heavy flooding by high tide in Dakuinuku Village, Sawakasa, Fiji

Daily heavy flooding by high tide in Dakuinuku Village, Sawakasa, Fiji

The villagers of Dakuinuku in Tailevu are waging a losing war.

It's a war against mother nature- one they have almost no chance of winning.

Since last year, Dakuinuku has experienced heavy flooding every day from the sea.

At high tide, the waves sweep over the beach front of the village.

The sea intrudes to the doorsteps of the houses, covering up half of Dakuinuku. It lays claim to half of the village every high tide.

A troubled Turaga Ni Mataqali ko Saniveikau, Epeli Duvaga fears his village may disappear some day.

He relates his experiences of the flooding with a smile that hides his true concern for the land he calls home.

Speaking in Fijian, he tells stories of how the daily flooding has become a part of their lives.

"When the tides come in, the small children can ride bilibilis inside the village, that's how bad the flooding is," said Mr Duvaga.

"If you were to look from far off, you would think the houses were boats sailing at sea," he says with a chuckle.

The signs of the sea entering the village are evident, it left swampy patches on the village rara and ate away at posts raising the houses.

Villagers suspect that a company excavating gravel on a river bed upstream is the cause of all their problems.

Mr Duvaga explains the Wailiko riverbed which is being excavated joins the sea near the Dakuinuku beach.

"The work is causing the sand on the river bed to be picked up and taken by the river water to the sea where it deposits itself on our beach."

"Before there was a difference in the levels of the beach and the village, but the amount of sand being washed up on the beach has made it level with the village," said Mr Duvaga.

"When the tides come in, there is nothing to stop the sea coming into the village."

"E dua na leqa levu," (It is a big problem) he says.

The villagers were also quick to point out that during heavy rains, the Wailiko River would burst its banks and flood the village, adding to the flooding from the sea.

The scope of the villagers concern does not end with the flooding from the sea.

The river site where the excavation is taking place meant something to them and other villages in the area.

Once a popular swimming and fishing spot for villagers in the area, it can no longer support the abundance of marine life it once did.

Villagers lamented how they would catch tilapia, prawns and eels in the water but this was no longer the case.

The river banks have been widened and the water levels have dropped over four metres to ankle depth in order to support the extraction process.

Matanivanua ni Tuinaloto Etonia Rokotuisuva was one of those who used to enjoy the luxury of the Wailiko River.

He explained the river flowed out from a gorge, a place the villagers called qaracobocobo.

"When we used to swim in there (qaracobocobo) we could reach up and hang on to the branches of the trees to rest, but we can't even get close now," said Mr Rokotuisuva.

"When we went spear fishing, if you shot for a fish and missed your target, you might as well forget about the spear because it was too deep to dive and look for it."

But now all those wonderful moments have become distant memories for the villagers.

Tui Navitilevu Ratu Timoci Nawaiduwana of Dakuinuku explained they can't stop the excavation of rocks because they were not traditional owners of the site.

"The site where the excavation is happening is owned by three other Mataqali, Naorocake, Naulugai and Navukula," said Ratu Timoci.

"They decided amongst themselves to give the river bed for construction."

Now the Dakuinuku villagers are suffering the same fates of the once proud Wailiko River.

Their only concern is for the future.

"What will happen to us now?," asks Ratu Timoci.

"What will happen to our children when the flooding washes away the village?"

"We understand the need for those Mataqali to earn money from their land but the hardships are being faced by those downstream," said Ratu Timoci.

The villagers have tried to rebuild a sea wall built by government, using tires and coral but their efforts are a temporary solution to a permanent problem.

Some have even moved to a new site called Cakaudrove, in attempts to get away from the flooding.

But Cakaudrove is too small to accommodate the 32 families of Dakuinuku and they have built big houses which cannot be easily moved.

The villagers of Dakuinuku want their land to be reclaimed to beat back the sea and the Wailiko river dredged to ease the flooding caused during heavy rains.

They are preparing to ask government and the excavating company for assistance, but who knows how long before anything will be done.

With no proper solution in sight the villagers can only sit on their door steps, watch and wait for the sea to claim what was once theirs

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