Mountains of hydro trouble

Mountain communities  in Fiji are thwarting plans by the country’s power monopoly to build a multi-million hydro power plant.

The people of Nubu and Cawanisa say Energy Fiji Limited (EFL) only has itself to blame for the derailment of its hydro project because of the pitiful rental it has paid them in the past.

On hold is the Qaliwana Hydro Scheme, which EFL has earmarked as its fifth hydro power plant, in the centre of Viti Levu, Fiji’s main island.

Qaliwana is located in the same region as the main Monasavu Hydro Scheme, which was commissioned in 1983 and has an 80 MW capacity. Adjacent Wainisavulevu Weir was constructed in 1984, and another hydro plant, the Nadarivatu Hydro Scheme came online in September 2012. The fourth hydropower at Nagado has been shut down since 2016 due to “low water pressure.”

Landowners have refused to lease EFL the 2700 acres of land needed for the Qaliwana project. Instead, they have registered an independent power producer (IPP) company and told EFL that their IPP, with the support of international partners, intends to construct the hydro plant themselves.

They say EFL will then be invited to purchase the power from them.

The Fiji government is the majority owner of EFL, and while its CEO Hasmukh Patel is refusing to respond to written questions this magazine had sent to his office, Islands Business knows that the public utility is unimpressed with the landowners’ intentions.

Eyewitnesses in Nubu and Cawanisa tell the magazine that on at least two occasions, the Fiji Police’s Special Response Team, dressed in full riot gear, visited their villages to warn them against interfering with the EFL plans.

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