By JEFFREY ELAPA
Port Moresby, the largest city in the South Pacific outside of Australia and New Zealand, is located on the south-western shores of the Gulf of Papua.
The metropolis breaks the famous traditional Motuan coastline of villages spread in either direction. The marine habitats here include lush mangrove systems, pristine coral reefs, sea grass beds and sandy substrates which support varied marine life.
However, global warming is already having its toll on the beautiful marine environment like in many other parts of the country and the world – effects such as rising sea levels and increase in salinity in wells used for fresh drinking water. Apart from natural causes of the gradually deteriorating state of natural habitats in this once lush marine environment, there are also other effects brought on by human activity.
Like all metropolitan cities in developing countries today, Port Moresby has witnessed rapid population growth in the past few of years brought on by a sharp increase in rural-to-urban migration and other socio-economic activities. The city now has a population of over 800,000 people.
Much of the existing infrastructure has not been built to accommodate such pressures – a notable one being the existing sewerage system where the substantial increase in the volume of untreated effluent being discharged into the sea via multiple outflows. This has put an added strain on marine life and habitats.
To address the issue, the Government of PNG with assistance from its Japanese counterpart, have entered into an agreement to rehabilitate the existing infrastructure through the Port Moresby Sewerage Systems Upgrading Project (POMSSUP).
The project’s targeted areas are located along the capital city’s waterfront stretch, which is partially surrounded by lush coral reefs. The marine ecosystem here has been a lifeline for the local communities that rely heavily on fishing and related small businesses. Previously, the structure of the sewerage system was adequate but with the burgeoning needs of a growing city – the result being an accelerated degradation of the sea environment – this resulted in elevated health risks for the local residents and had a negative impact to the volume of coastal fishing and tourism activities.
The project will remedy this by intercepting, rerouting, treating and disposing waste past the coral reefs, and expanding the sea area of the existing sewer system.
POMSSUP is one of the many development ventures that at attest to the vibrant bilateral relations between the Governments of PNG and Japan. These relations span 40 years.
This particular project has allowed for much-needed development and rehabilitation to the existing sewer system which covers the southern catchment area of the metropolis from Konedobu right through to Kilakila and the Joyce Bay area where the modern treatment plant has been stationed.
The plant is deemed the largest in the South Pacific, built to international standards and has a treatment capacity of up to 18 400 cubic meters per day with potential to increase should the need arise.
The sewerage network spans 26km across the city’s waterfront and compromises 13 pumping stations.
The project has been implemented by Kumul Consolidated Holdings on behalf of the PNG Government. It is jointly funded by the Government of Japan through the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (Jica) and the Government of PNG at a total cost of K410 million.
The project will have a long term positive imprint on the marine ecosystem – one that is heavily relied on for fisheries along the city’s southern catchment area and the low lying villages of the Motuan coastline, with further protection guaranteed for generations to come. It will also increase potential for tourism and recreational activities in the area. This project is testament to government cooperating to tackle substantial environmental impact issues, and succeeding.
The construction of the wastewater treatment facility at Joyce Bay commenced in April 2016. It is now fully functional and was commissioned for operation on Friday, March 29 by Minister for Public Enterprises and State Investment William Duma and Japan’s Ambassador to PNG Satoshi Nakajima.
The project operator is Eda Ranu and the contractor is Dai Nippon –Hitachi Joint Venture and Kumul Consolidated Holdings is the owner of the project.
At the inauguration of the project, Minister Duma described it as milestone achievement for KCHL, Eda Ranu and PNG as it was the only sewerage system ever developed in the Pacific using the latest technology.
He said the launch of this multi-million kina project demonstrated the robust and a genuine relationship that exists with one of PNG’s leading friends in the world.
Previously untreated sewerage from the Port Moresby South catchment area had been disposed directly into the sea at Ela Beach but with the development of the treatment facility at Joyce Bay, near Kilakila, in the Moresby South electorate, waste will be a refined and pumped out to open sea.
“The POMSSUP was initiated to address this issue at hand. The two governments entered into an agreement to rehabilitate the existing sewerage infrastructure in the city. The POMSSUP is also tied up to the Government’s National Water Sanitation and Hygiene (Wash) policy aimed at improving water access and sanitation programmes in the country and changing the hygiene behaviour of our people in urban and rural areas,” Duma said.
“This is a very important national asset we have now. This is one of the very important and significant milestone projects launched and initiated under the leadership of Prime Minister Peter O’Neill. We’ve seen the rehabilitation and construction of our three sports stadia, the upgrading of the Jackson International Airport, the new roads leading to the suburbs of Gerehu, Tokorara and Nine Mile and all way to the central business district in town.
“These major infrastructure projects combined have cost billions of kina that have been initiated under the O’Neill Government. These projects have lifted our profile in the region and helped our city become a safer and better city to live in,” he said.
By JEFFREY ELAPA