Risky Rides: Drivers Fear for Safety on Neglected Roads

Lorry and tractor drivers in Korotari, Labasa are increasingly concerned about their safety due to the poor condition of the roads they have to navigate.

Vishwa Chand, a local sugarcane farmer and lorry driver, highlighted the severe state of the roads, emphasizing the need for immediate action to prevent potentially fatal accidents.

“There are rocks on the road surface that can damage the tires or our lorry,” Chand explained. He mentioned that runoff water during rainfall often washes away parts of the road, exposing rocks that pose hazards.

“We plead with the Government to grade the road to suppress the rocks,” Chand appealed.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, Biman Prasad, announced last month that the Government is prioritizing road infrastructure improvements to help farmers transport their goods to the market.

Chand noted that the condition of the road in Korotari is so bad that he often has to carefully balance his lorry with its cane load to avoid overloading. Previous grading work by the Fiji Roads Authority (FRA) had only offered temporary relief.

Chand reiterated that the poor road conditions are significantly hindering the ability of sugarcane farmers to harvest and transport their crops efficiently.

“We want to get more cane across, but the dangerous roads make drivers and farmers think twice,” he said.

Chand claimed that previous requests to the Minister for Sugar, Charan Jeath Singh, earlier in the year have gone unanswered.

Drainage issues are a significant cause of the poor road conditions, with runoff water frequently washing away the soil. Chand believes that developing certain parts of the road with proper drains is essential.

“Some parts of the road have no drains, which affects the road significantly, so we need proper drains,” he said.

The Vunimoli bridge, which connects the road to Korotari, is also in a deteriorated state and requires urgent attention.

Chand proposed a solution to the Government and the FRA, suggesting they tar seal three kilometers of road per year in Korotari.

“If this is continued for at least three to four years, the entire road problem will be addressed,” he said. Chand emphasized the high maintenance costs due to the rugged terrain they cross daily and urged the Government not to wait for a tragedy before taking action.

Another resident, Pradeep Lal, pointed out the irony of Korotari being a major source of raw materials for road works while suffering from poor road conditions itself.

“Korotari is the mother of all roads in Vanua Levu because our road leads to the spot where gravel and stones are sourced for road works elsewhere in the division,” he stated.

Korotari is also one of the many areas in the North where vegetable farmers supply large quantities of produce to the Labasa municipal market.

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