Capital city taps run dry

Main Stories, National

The National, Wednesday, April 27, 2011

PORT Moresby is bracing for the worst with Koiari landowners turning off the city’s water supply and shutting down all Rouna hydropo­wer stations starting yesterday.
Koiari landowners, protesting the killing of one of their youthful leaders on April 19 and the attempted murder of another in 2000, demanded immediate payment of K1.5 million in compensation before the water and power are turned back on.
PNG Power and Eda Ranu have begun advising the public of heavy load shedding and water supply restrictions affecting all parts of the city of more than 300,000 inhabitants.
While PNG Power conducts load shedding exercises on electricity supply, Eda Ranu will be restricting water supply to give a fair distribution of the limited amount of water available at the Bomana pumping station to NCD residents.
PNG Power has indicated the load shedding exercise will be carried out for an indefinite period until the power stations are reopened.
With the shutdown, PNG power can only generate 76 megawatts (MW) of electricity while the NCD’s demand is 94MW.
Eda Ranu can produce 60,000 litres per day from the Bomana pumping station, which is insufficient to meet the NCD’s demand for 145,000 litres daily.
In a city where water and electricity supply are intermittent at best, this action will create near panic situations in many parts.
Five clans of the Koiari people, who control the headwaters of the Laloki Ri­ver and the land where the Rouna hydropo­wer projects are located, yesterday presented a two-part petition to NCD Governor Powes Parkop demanding compensation for the death and attempted murder and for a negotiation of a memorandum of understanding.
The compensation component in­cludes:
* K1 million for the killing of Umuia Koeari at Hohola on April 19; l K500,000 for the attempted murder of Andrew Bali in 2000 at the Gordon market;
* All settlements with­in 20m of the killing apart from government offices be removed and the cost met by the NCD; and 
* For NCD to meet cost of landowners for the duration of protest.
The landowners also demand that:
* Government releases electricity supply business back to the Koiari people;
* A significant equity in Eda Ranu is given the Koiaris;
* Government to seal all national and feeder roads in the area;
* PNG Power supplies power free of charge to all Koiari households and businesses and state institutions on Koiari land;
* A separate Koiari electorate be created; 
* Parkop and MP for Kairuku-Hiri Paru Aihi establish a commission of inquiry into all traditional lands in Port Moresby; and
* Government to up­grade Iarowari High School to technical school.
Acting Prime Minister Sam Abal said last night that the government was prepared to discuss issues including equity participation in Eda Ranu and PNG Power, education and infrastructure but did not touch on the compensation claim.
Abal reactivated the interagency task force to be coordinated by the Department of the PM and NEC to address issues such as those raised by the Koiari landowners.
He said: “It is not wrong to petition the government regarding development issues. Some grievances are genuine which the government is willing to talk with the landowners but it is wrong to break the law to bring these grievances to the attention of the government.”
The acting prime minister warned the landowners of a standing 2006 restraining court order which may be served to prevent shut down of electricity and water installations.
Abal assured city residents that the government was doing all it could to restore electricity and water supply to the city.
According to chairman of the Koiari landowner group, Bagua Watti, until their demands are met, Rouna reservoirs 1, 2, 3, and 4 will remain closed.
He said failure by the government to honour the signed MoU had led to the existing land issues. 
 “We want answers before I hand over the keys to you (respective agencies). You better address these issues,” he said.
Parkop has assured the people that the commission would not hesitate to evacuate illegal settlers in the city.
He said the aim of his office was to beautify and create a peaceful city for everyone but, unfortunately, people had fallen victim to a minority.
“These senseless killings must stop,” he said.
Aihi, who is also Higher Education Minister, has assured the people that he would do his best to voice their grievances and bring their demands to the Somare-Abal government. 
NCD Central command divisional commander Fred Shee­kiot confirmed that investigations into the killing were continuing.