PNG Post-Courier

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (Jan. 31, 2008) - Lae City is the capital of one of the biggest provinces in the country and is the port and gateway to 40 percent of the nation’s population.

It has several important roles to play, as the major port, as the lifeline to the Highlands and as an industrial and services center. Yet we seem to have the Morobean capital in disaster mode these days.

Recently the deplorable state of the city’s roads has justifiably won national attention and some sympathy and road repair money. Now we are told that the city is in danger of being split in half by the thundering torrents of the Bumbu River.

The warning comes from two responsible organizations, the Provincial Physical Planning Board and the Provincial Disaster and Emergency Service. They say the river is a major disaster, waiting to happen.

We would like to know if the authorities have been "waiting for it to happen." Are peoples’ memories so short that they cannot remember the major flooding of 1983, when hundreds were left homeless and the Government had to establish a temporary accommodation venue, which was nicknamed Tent Siti.

Well, Tent Siti is now a permanent part of the Lae landscape and now a new generation is facing the prospect of joining Tent Siti or some other "temporary" evacuation point. All of those in positions of power in Lae would have some memory of the 1983 disaster. They have seen in almost every year since the effects of seasonal rains on the city and the Bumbu landscape. This is not a sudden situation. It has been as plain as the nose on our collective face for decades.

Planners are saying that the problem is getting worse because of the rate of mountainside gardening nearby and that soil sediments are building up.

Stating the problem is one thing. Devising ways and means to solving the problem is what we want to hear about.

Lae City cannot be allowed to erode away. It is a vital part of the nation’s history and development. And to be blunt, there is far too much at stake to let it drop into the turgid waters of the flooding Bumbu.

People’s lives could be at stake, for one. And their livelihoods will be in danger too. Many people and many companies and institutions have far too much sunk into the Lae economy to sit back and let the disaster happen.

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