By Kalafi Moala
Ha’alaufuli, Vava’u – The word ‘tanuhala’ in Tongan is for any work associated with public road projects. It is a positive term and speaks most specifically of covering the roads with rocks, all the way to the process of tar sealing.
But to the people of Ha’alaufuli, Vava’u, tanuhala has become a negative term considering the horrible experience from the heavy flooding of their properties.
Local villagers of Ha’alaufuli have taken their anger and frustration to social media to share what the controversial government tanuhala project has done to their neighborhood. Due to heavy rain in recent days, homes and streets were heavily flooded, however, villagers claim the cause of the flooding and destruction of their properties was due to the poor planning of road works project by the government and their contractors.
An 83-yr-old widow by the name of Kaloni, interviewed on live social media pleads with the government, and more specifically with the alleged supervisor of the tanuhala project for her village, ‘Etuate Lavulavu, to do something to stop her home from the destructive consequences of the road works.
“It has never happened at Ha’alaufuli before. I call on Lavulavu to come and remove the rocks so that the water can be drained out of our homes,” Kaloni said with deep sorrow and frustration.
The road works carried out involved the covering with rocks of roads at the upper end of the village. According to observers on the spot, the road is covered with rocks making it much higher than ground level of several houses in the village.
“Even higher than the fence in one of the homes,” says ‘Asinate Fifita who was videotaping the flood damage. She was sad and emotional as she recounted what was going on at the village.
Apparently, Ha’alaufuli is not the only village affected by the tanuhala project, a project costing millions of tax-payer dollars, and have been very much the subject of public dialogue.
“We are for the construction works on our roads,” ‘Asinate says, “But we want it done properly so that it does not create the problems we are experiencing.”
There is no drainage in the area, meaning that when the road at the upper end of the village was covered with rocks, water flows down to the village and created havoc. The un-drained water covered several properties, including Kaloni’s home and the houses are suddenly in a swamp like lagoon.
“I went to the District Officer of our village to plead with him, to stop the construction works as it will affect our homes, but they continued. All it took was a little rain, and the flooding began,” Kaloni said.
The natural drainages that were in the village were now covered over with rocks, and the water had nowhere to go but create flooding conditions.
“Even the home of the chief – Afu Ha’alaufuli – is flooded,” according to ‘Asinate Fifita. “This is tragic,” she says. “Lavulavu and those that carried out the works did this without any proper engineering planning, and even ignored the warnings from the village people.”
Photos of the roads that were supposed to be fixed in some areas show large potholes, and the roads partially covered with floodwaters.
“We are the ones that are suffering from this,” Kaloni said, as relatives brought out her belongings from the house, destroyed by the water.
She keeps saying, “This has never happened in Ha’alaufuli before.”
At the time of this report there has not been any response from the government, and the supervisor of the project could not be contacted. However, we will follow-up on this story.