IT is almost three years and a couple of local level governments (LLGs) are still reeling from the unprecedented impacts of the 7.5 magnitude earthquake that struck the central Highlands in February, 2018.
The epicenter of the earthquake was at Huya village near Mt Bosavi in Southern Highlands.
Extensive damages to infrastructure and environment and loss of lives have been recorded in Mt Bosavi, Kutubu and Mendi.
Perhaps, reports on the disaster have stormed both local and international media as it was one of the massive and extensive disasters ever recorded in Papua New Guinea’s modern-day history.
Despite the wider publicity and response, impacted communities in the Highlands have expressed dissatisfaction with the provincial disaster centre and the national disaster control centre for the slowness to effectively manage the disaster recovery efforts.
The Southern Highlands government had made a commitment of K300,000 for Kutubu where extensive damages have been recorded which it failed to honour and this had crippled disaster recovery efforts.
The Kutubu LLG had formed a disaster response committee in the wake of the disaster to coordinate and manage the relief and recovery efforts in the LLG which was endorsed by the provincial disaster controller. Regardless of the lack of political support, the committee travelled the length and breadth of Kutubu LLG to gather assessment reports on the earthquake disaster and submitted to the provincial disaster centre and disaster controller’s office in Port Moresby for government intervention.
However, it took ages for the report’s approval from the provincial and Government before any intervention measure could be channelled to the impacted areas.
It was time-consuming and an expensive exercise, which the committee solely spearheaded for the benefit of the impacted communities and because of lack of political support, the committee went into hibernation.
Whether it was due to negligence, information gap or communication barrier, the provincial government still has the opportunity to honour its commitment and bring some closure to the affected communities as we prepare to enter the 2022 general election.
Failing to honour its commitment, the next thing we expect to see is serious development problems including lack of safe drinking water, increased gender inequality as women and children walk distance to fetch water, poor road conditions disrupting flow of goods and services into Kutubu LLG and the oil and liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects in Kutubu, Moran and Gobe.
I am frustrated by these problems because they reflect the lack of transparent and effective political representation and corruption crippling disaster recovery efforts and development in Kutubu, Southern Highlands and Papua New Guinea.
Sadly, the magnitude 7.5 earthquake will be recognised as one of the poorly managed disasters in the country’s history and I believe this trend might continue into the future unless the Government intervenes and fix our problems identified above.