PNG Government Efforts To Clear Landslide From Highlands Highway Criticized By Landowners

Landowner representatives demand $310,000 before road can be cleared

By Michael Koma in Kundiawa

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, ) – The government has reportedly allocated K2.5 million [US$770,000] to remove debris and build a bypass at Guo outside Kundiawa where a massive landslide covered about 150 metres of the Highlands Highway since Sunday.

Provincial works engineer Simon Urambo told the Post-Courier at Guo (4km west of Kundiawa) yesterday that the estimate was done on a detailed assessment done by officers from the Department of Works (DOW) in Kundiawa.

Meanwhile, landowner representatives told a DOW delegation that the State should pay them K1 million [US$310,000] before the debris can be cleared.

Landowner committee chairman Paul Gagesugo said they will allow the DOW and contractors to remove the debris and reopen the country’s longest highway upon payment.

[PIR editor's note: On Jan. 11, 2017 The National reported that 'Police are guarding workers clearing a section of the Highlands Highway damaged by a landslide in Chimbu following a demand by landowners to be paid K1 million before work begins.']

Mr Gagesugo said over the years they have repeatedly told the government to rehabilitate the portion in question in a bid to avoid such landslips, "but our requests had fallen on deaf ears."

Chimbu road construction company, Kaiawork’s Construction, would be engaged to clear the debris, build a bypass and permanently restore the highway, according to DOW officers in Kundiawa.

Kaiaworks’ managing director Godfried Umba said it would take at least three days to remove the debris and construct a road for light vehicles to cross while full restoration would take about three to four months.

The 800 metre-long landslide has covered 150 metres of the highway and caused havoc to coffee trees, food gardens, houses and a burial site that is believed to hold about 300 graves.

Victim Margaret Kai has called on the government to compensate the affected villagers and resettle them at another location as the geography is prone to future landslips.

Meanwhile, PMV buses and trucks had to stop on either side of the affected portion and passengers had to cross the slippery, muddy track built by village youths.

PNG Post-Courier
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