Published: Tuesday 30 June 1998

Fiji has enforced nationwide restrictions on the use of water as the country is fighting with the worst drought in recorded history. Those people who are caught washing vehicles, buildings, footpaths, or even watering crops, will have to face a maximum penalty of hav-ing water disconnected for a week.

The drought has hit the country hard when rains associated with the wet season of October to April failed to arrive. It began in the drier western and northern parts of the country recently and spread to the wet south-east late last year.

About 200,000 people in the capital Suva and the nearby towns are facing a severe crisis. The main Savura dam that supplies water to the city has reached alarmingly low levels. Water engineer of the city says it is just a metre away from levels that would make it impossible to pump water.

Thousands of people have been hit by water cuts in the last one month. In the wake of acute water crisis, the Fiji government has set aside funds to build an addi-tional reservoir for the area. China has offered help to provide pipes and other equipment.

The Nadi Meteorological Centre claims that Fiji has received its lowest rainfall since statistics began to be compiled in 1942. In March, Nadi, in the dry western part of the country, re-ceived 28 per cent of normal rains and Suva, in the wet southeast part, 39 per cent.

In the northern and western parts of the country, sugar cane and market garden crops are drying up, causing hardship to farmers who have lost almost all means of livelihood, say farming organisations.

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