A Fijian engineer who has come home to her roots is leading a project for the Fiji Roads Authority (FRA) worth more than FJD$200million which will significantly improve the routes around the country’s international airports.
Zaina Khan, 45, left London in October 2013 with no job but with a passion and the dream of using her 20 years of engineering experience to benefit her home country and its people.
Having worked for MWH Global in the UK, who are assisting the FRA with the improvements to the country’s transport network, Zaina took up a contract with MWH on her arrival before securing her current role as Programme Engineer with the FRA for its Nadi and Suva Road Upgrade Project.
The project will see significant upgrading and widening work carried out on the roads around Nadi and Nausori international airports. In Nadi this involves improvements to 12 kilometres of road, including 3.3 kilometres of new road and work in Suva will upgrade nine kilometres of road.
“Our design consultants have been working hard on this project for 18 months,” said Zaina Khan, Nadi and Suva Road Upgrade Project Programme Manager for the FRA. “Fiji is at a very exciting and pivotal moment in its history with the Government’s ongoing commitment to reform, democracy and the forthcoming election. I want to use this opportunity and my skills to be a part of it and make a difference to my country and its people.
The planned work will reduce the congestion on our roads and improve travel times for local communities and commuters. Better roads and improved street lighting, footpaths and road drainage will undoubtedly make the roads safer for drivers and pedestrians. What’s more, this key project will bring a boost to Fiji’s economy by improving access from the international airports to the adjacent cities and nearby areas. It will enable more economic development such as shops, houses and amenities along the highways. It will also significantly enhance the first experiences for tourists to Fiji,” said Zaina Khan.
Preparation work has recently started in Nadi on part of the planned new road and the four lane upgrade on the Queens Road near to the airport is being prepared for tender. In Suva, preparation work has begun to upgrade the existing two lane road near the airport. The planned four lane upgrade to parts of the Kings Road will be in two parts and are currently at the tender stage.
Zaina comes to Fiji with an Honours Degree in Civil Engineering and a Postgraduate Degree in Secondary School Physics and Science Education. She has worked on numerous worldwide projects both in the UK and overseas including the London 2012 Olympics.
“The FRA is committed to upskilling the local workforce and improving the supply chain therefore, I feel privileged to be using my engineering and teaching skills to mentor and challenge others.
My Father is a born and bred Fijian and when I visited Fiji for the first time as an adult in August 2012 to meet my extended family and discover more about my roots I just fell in love with the country. Back in London after my trip Fiji was constantly on my mind. Even when I visited again just one week after Cyclone Evan had hit, despite the challenges of having no electricity or water, I still did not change my mind and I knew I had to come home to help.
I could not have come home and made this contribution to Fiji had it not been for the dual citizenship rights being reinstated by the current Government. I feel so honoured to say that I am Fijian again. I now have the opportunity to make a real difference through my work with the FRA to my country and all Fijians.
My Grandfather, Mohammed Rafiq Khan of the Sabeto mountain range, was one of the founders of Pioneer Transport which was the first bus company in Fiji. He then went on to start M R Khan Buses which today continues to be a family run business and one of the oldest surviving bus companies in Fiji. I feel that I am following in my family’s tradition as a transport pioneer in what is often seen as a male dominated profession,” said Zaina Khan.