Words and pictures by PISAI GUMAR
A BUAI trader in Lae found himself very embarrassedwhen PNGDF soldiers from IgamBarracks walked along the Esplanade Road where he was sitting one morning during a clean-athondrive.
He was at his wife’s makeshift buai market at the DCA beachfront that day three years ago when the men in green, armed only with black garbage bags, walked from Aircorps Road to Esplanade Road and onwards towardsButibam Road and Sir Ignatius Kilage stadium, ridding the streets of rubbish, rubbish that he and his wife and other vendors along the seafront were contributing to.
Isaac Manu is abuai trader from Amoa village in Morobe Patrol Post inHuon Gulf.
“I thought to myself, these soldiers are meant to protect our country; they shouldn’t be collecting rubbish on the streets in Lae.Because of our (citizens) careless attitudes, they are now spendingprecious time on the streets cleaning up after us,” he remembers.
A businessman, Manu has been operating dinghies thatply the buai business along the Northern-Morobe watersfor over 10 years.
“I felt guilty as I sat silently and watchedthe soldiers continue with the cleaning up of the streets.”
“The very next day I decided that I would do something about the dirty image of the popular seashore market and started planting flowers and trees along the DCA bus stop,” he said.
That day, he also started urgingother vendors at the busy DCA market to be responsible for their rubbish.
With Lae being the rainy capital that it is, it wasn’t long before the area started taking on a new appearance with flowers, treesand coconut palms sprouting along the beachfront and adding to the already picturesque view of the sea.
The change at DCA beach inspired Manu to extend the beautification drive towards the Esplanade beach area where the wreck of the mv Kuanua sits, and beyond towards the Lae Yacht Club.
Part of that beach near the end of the old Lae airport, some years ago, was threatened by encroaching sea but that was stemmed by a landfill to stop further erosion.
Manu already has the blessing of the Lae City Authority to develop the area into a recreational park after signing an agreement with the municipal authority a couple of years back.
This beachfront, which has a beautiful view southwards towards Salamaua and across the bay towards Voco Point,for many years, was the base for homeless kids and youths who took refuge in the wrecked remains of mv Kuanua andfed from people who stop there to watch the sunset or take in the fresh sea breeze as banana boats, yachts and ships moved about on the waters.
As Manu indicated, it is now three years after he first started the beautification project and like the blooming flowers and painted flower beds, the reputation of the beachfront has blossomed.
The youths who have been working on the project do so out of their own free will but people need tools to work and food to be able to work and Manu has been their savior.
Fisheries Minister and Kabwum MP Patrick Bassainitially assisted the volunteers while he was still LLG president of Deyamos.
Organisations such as St. Francis Technical Vocational College in West Tarakahas also come to the aid of the workers while a woman donated tins of paint for the stone walls.
Tree seedlings, mostly coastline species, were brought in from Morobe post, Finschhafenand even oil palm seedlings from Ramu Sugar.
“This initiative is my smallcontribution to my city and province,” Manu said.
“No-one will come and change the image of Lae and Morobe; it is us Morobean’swho should take the lead and show by example.”
He hopes that all 10 Morobean MPs and elites will recognize his efforts and join in on the move to beautify Lae and restore it to what it was previouslyknown as — Garden City!
Words and pictures by PISAI GUMAR