Drainage Runoff Near Vanuatu Airport Being Rebuilt After Cyclone Damage

Department of Forestry building nearly washed away by flooding

By Jonas Cullwick

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (Vanuatu Daily Post, May 12, 2017) – Reconstruction of the Buerfield Airport runoff drainage system that runs through Tagabe Agriculture in Port Vila is intensifying in earnest to secure the head office of the Department of Forestry.

The office was nearly lost after the ground around the building was washed away by flooding of nearby Tagabe River.

Local company Dinh Van Tu Construction is hurrying up with the work to complete the drainage work and also secure the office building before it is totally lost in another storm and heavy rain that may come any time now.

The disaster struck on Saturday night, when a large chunk of land from the river about 20 metres away to the building was washed away leaving a large gorge some 12 to 15 metres deep and 20 meters wide and the building perching precariously on only centimeters of land.

On Sunday, in driving rain from tropical cyclone Donna, the work started in earnest to bury the gorge with boulders and ground to secure the building.

After that the drainage reconstruction works started with the new raised level overlaid with cement floor and bricks laid that will be several meters high and sealed over with cement.

Large boulders were also laid from the side of the river to the building and covered over with ground.

This will mean that the flooded river level during storms will not reach the raised level of the concrete drainage and not easily wash away the ground around the drain because of the large boulders at the base and around the concrete drain.

Director of the Department of Forestry Hannington Tate explained that the Department of forests was moved from the building now housing the Corporate Services of the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Forestry, Fisheries and Biodiversity next to Child Care after a big earthquake in 1999 because the building was considered unsafe.

He said soon after they moved in they noticed the situation with the condition of the ground from the river to the southern end of the office.

“Storm surges from the river during heavy rain were causing the ground to collapse from the river and moving meters every time towards the building,” Director Tate said.

“I drew the attention of senior authorities in the Ministry and also the Public Works Department to the problem,” he added.

He said he first drew the attention of the Ministry and the PWD in 2010 and again in 2015. Last year as a matter of urgency he again sought the help of the PWD and they carried out an assessment and said it was an issue for the Civil Aviation Authority of Vanuatu to solve the drainage system and that the work to fix the problem would cost between Vt22-25 million.

“Last week, I again brought the concern up with the Director General of the Ministry,” Director Tate added. “Now it is a commitment for the government to fix.”

Tate said securing the building is the only option because the Department cannot move to another office space as they would not be able to pay the rent as the Department’s annual budget is only Vt11 million.

The Tagabe office building houses 23 staff members and also the national herbarium and the REDD+ office.

Vanuatu Daily Post
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