By JAMES GUMUNO
SOMEONE wanting to move from one area to another has to walk, paddle or sail, catch a ride or drive, or even fly in an airplane. To be able to do these though, there has to be a trek or road, an airstrip, or a wharf or pier.
While urbanites can move around easier, people in places where development has not occurred are unable to enjoy the same luxuries. Some of these places are in close proximity to large urban towns or cities but yet lack these basic infrastructures that can enable them to move around better and quicker as well as empower their lifestyles.
Their MPs, who are mainly in charge of any such developments, cite the lack of such progress being due to high transportation costs. A huge bulk of their District Service Improvement Program funds, they say, is spent on transporting building material, moving road and bridges equipment, mainly by air, and very little is left over annually to cater for developmental purposes.
Maybe, one MP suggested, an additional sum of money be given on top of DSIP funds to parliamentarians whose electorates don’t have roads and are mainly accessible by third level airlines.
Currently, all MPs receive K10 million annually in DSIP funds which make districts that are already progressing, progress even more while those that lack roads continue to lag behind.
.One such remote district that has difficulty with transportation and accessibility is the Jimi district in Jiwaka. Jimi is so high up in the mountains, that it sharesborders with Madang, Chimbu, Western Highlands, Enga, and East Sepik.
It has a population of around 50,000 people, with more than half of these depending on rural airstrips to connect with the outside world.
Third-level airlines such as Missionary Aviation Fellowship (MAF) play a very important role to try to bridge the gap between the main town and rural people.
As well as fly in government and church workers, MAF also airlifts supplies for health centers, schools and trade stores.
On the return trip, passengers and cash crops such as coffee and peanuts are ferried out.
MAF operatesa weekly flight into Kinambe, Kol, Ambullua, and Sendihap. These are central locations where people from the three local level governmentsof Upper Jimi, Middle Jimi and Lower Jimi have access to airstrips.
A road network is being built that starts from the town of Banz in North Waghi district and is expected to connect Jimi. It currently ceases at Tabibuga district headquarter in Middle Jimi.
Areas and villages beyond Tabibuga station arereachable only by third level aircrafts. There were roads that were built at the start of the colonial period that linked once-flourishing government stations like Kol in Upper Jimi and Koinambein Lower Jimi. These roadshave deteriorated or vanished completely in some parts with 4- wheel drive vehicles able to access Koinambeonly in the dry season.
Local MP Wake Goi is making sure that he spends on roads during his term in office. Straight after elections this year, one of the first projects he undertook to do was the construction of the 35km road from Karap, in Middle Jimi to Kol. Kaia Works Construction Company is currently working on the K5m project.
Work started straight after the ground breaking ceremony on Oct 5 at Karap road junction and has since covered more than 10km.
Work is now at Bintz village and for the more than 18,000 people from the 25 council wards in Upper Jimi LLG, catching a glimpse of a road vehicle after 25years is something they very much look forward to.
Kol high school and Kolhealth center will soon be able to save on air freight costs once the road is open.
Transportingorganic coffee and peanuts to the markets in town will also put cash in the hands of local gardeners and farmers and small trade store owners will also have cash left over once the road is open for use.
While the MP is trying to go big on roads, he still needs the help of MAF for places in his electorate that are still not connected to town by road.
On Oct 25, Goi, accompanied by his councilor KumbaTumu of Kunnol council ward in Ambullua, visited the MAF office at Kagamuga airport in Mt Hagen with a K250,000cheque, a donation to the aviation company to subsidize airfares for travel to Jimi. Included in this package are medevacs and transportation of materials and supplies for schools and health centers.
Goi, who is also the Vice Minister for Works and Implementationvows to spend up to K2 million on airfaresubsidies for his people during his term as MP. The K250,000that he has donated is part of the K2 million.
Already, people are taking advantage of the more than 50 percent off on the usual K300 airfare and are flying to Kol, Koinambe, Ambullua, and Sendihap.
Goi said the subsidies cover anyone as long as they fly into, or within Jimi district.
The MP is expected to make another presentation of the same amount, for the same purpose, to MAF by the end of this year and he especially thanks the Prime Minister for making things happen in the districts through government funding.
A delighted Eric Eribieng, administration manager of MAF said this was the first of its kind for a local MP to subsidise airfares for his people.
By JAMES GUMUNO