PNG Post-Courier

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (Mar. 16) – Papua New Guinea’s Highlands Highway is again in the news and in a way that threatens to cost the nation big money once more.

The latest development is a landslide in the Chuave area. It is threatening to rip away a chunk of the bitumenised highway.

Thirty village houses built down the slopes have been buried, along with village animals and other property.

From the nation’s viewpoint, the vital lifeline to nearly half the population is again at risk of being severed or hamstrung. It is the wet season and Chuave is in that part of the highway, stretching from the edge of the Eastern Highlands into the Chimbu Province, where the most fragile ridgetop soil is regularly swept away by heavy rains. If that part of the road is damaged badly, the bulk of the Highlands people and their businesses will be put under pressure. 

If the highway is blocked or severely reduced in vehicle handling capabilities, what will happen to the thousands of tonnes of coffee, tea and fresh garden produce that is shipped to Lae, Port Moresby and overseas ports to keep our economy ticking over? What indeed has happened to the major remake of the highway, the K150 million that is supposed to be reviving the vital link from the coast to the Highlands?

We have heard and read assurances that the rehabilitation of the highway is on the way. We would be encouraged if the Government could spell out the program for the work and whether it will take care of these seasonal disruptions to the existing highway. 

Will the job involve measures to strengthen the more unstable sections, especially the Daulo Pass and Chuave?

The fragile geology of the area is nothing new. The reports have been sitting on Works Department bookshelves since Dillingham and other companies first created the highway out of fearful mountainsides back in the 1960s.

March 16, 2004

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