Flooded for five years

Weekender
COMMUNITY

A neighbourhood in Port Moresby’s Gerehu suburb dreads the rainy season when the rest of the city looks forward to it.

By ALPHONSE BARIASI
RESIDENTS of Ghunagaudi Drive in Gerehu Stage 1 in Port Moresby are again appealing to the city authorities to help them in their suffering and loss caused by flooding blamed on poor engineering.
Last Saturday The National was invited to see the damage caused by flood waters during the past week and previous years.
At least 10 families have been badly affected by the flash floods.
The problem is caused by the new Gerehu-9-Mile road which has hampered the free flow of rainwater away from the residential area.
Prior to the new road being built storm water from the residential area flowed freely into the existing drains and away from homes.
However, when the road work commenced, the waterway was blocked and two very small outlets were installed which are unable to drain all the water from the large catchment in the suburb.
Since 2016, the residents have lost property including household items and vehicles and suffered extensive damages to homes. Some have lost business as a result of what they termed professional negligence by the National Capital District Commission (NCDC)and the contractor working on the road.
Resident Wilbur Katato and his family recently bought a property across from their current residence and to keep out the flood waters, erected a brick wall around it. However, in the recent flooding, part of the newly built wall collapsed.
“I sounded like a bomb going off,” Wilbur’s wife Rebbonie said referring to the sound of the collapsing wall.
“I have spent a lot of money developing this property but now all my effort and money have gone to waste,” she added.
Lawyer couple Edward and Flora Sasingian have lost property and business to the flood waters. Their two-bedroom unit downstairs was destroyed and they had to sell their hire cars as there was no dry ground to park them. A tucker shop was also rendered useless.
“We’ve lost small businesses that have been making us good incomes regularly,” Flora said.
“We started the hire car business in 2018 but the flooding in the yard caused a lot of inconvenience and damage to the vehicles and stress.
We had to move them out when the rain came and when we were late water would go into the engines, especially in the flash floods. When the down pour is so heavy the water has no place to go out due to the blockage at the back of the house.
“It is dangerous for our children as the water level is over a meter high and we have to be quick to switch off the power supply,” Edward said.
The property, Section 295 Lot 9 belongs to Edward’s dad, retired diplomat Jacob Sasingian who bought it in 1985. Sasingian had four children who were raised from that home and have now moved out.
Edward added: “We all were raised at that residence and know the place to be a very pleasant and safe community with our neighbours who moved in the 80s.
Only a few moved out and sold their houses. We faced no problems there until the floods that came in 2016 due to a man-made interference with no regard to the people living there.”
He said their mother was a high blood pressure patient and her condition worsened due to her property being damaged by floods.
Spokesman John Kerenga Gugl said the NCDC was well aware of the situation as it has been five years since the first flooding incident. Yet there has not been any satisfactory answer or action taken to alleviate the situation.
The residents have between them given three Section 5 notices to the NCDC to sue for losses.
Section 5 of the Claims By and Against the State Act 1996 provides for any person who intends to sue the State to give a notice of intention to claim against the Attorney-General or the Solicitor-General in person, Wilbur and Rebbonie Katato’s counsel Emmanuel Isaac explained.
“The main objective of this legal provision is to ensure the State is notified of a possible legal action against it so that it can carry out its own investigations whilst the trail of evidence is still fresh and to decide whether or not to defend a claim or to seek settlement regarding that claim.
“By carrying out its own investigations, it is intended that the State will wisely use its limited lawyers to defend those actions that need to be defended and settle those that can be settled.
“As legal costs incurred are usually big in the event that the State is involved in a protracted court case, Section 5 comes handy for the State to save costs.”
Isaac said he had given one such notice to the NCDC last July.
An engineer engaged by the residents pointed out that the commission had three options to rectify the matter: Build two larger culverts t; build a proper storm water drain on the other side of the road to channel all water; or relocated the residents somewhere else and compensate them.
Kerenga-Gugl said they had waited long enough for NCDC to do something and they were now engaging an engineer to work on a drain and culvert design and attract the commission’s engineers to supervise the community.
No word from NCDC so far
The silence by NCDC for five years is unwarranted and uncalled for, Isaac said.
“It is in fact reckless and irresponsible.
“A project undertaken by NCDC has directly and adversely affected the livelihood of the people.
“As a result of this poor foresight and planning, the people are likely to be affected for as long as the problem is not rectified. This is a situation which requires NCDC’s urgent attention.
“Everyone’s home no matter how expensive it is, is their castle. Homes and lives are being affected.
“The most humane thing for NCDC to do is to meet these affected people without further delay,” he said.
Diminished value property
The flooding of the neighbourhood has diminished the value of properties and no new tenant would want to move there and raised children there, the residents said.
In the dry season when conditions get hot and humid and the rest of the city prays for rain, residents of Ghaunagaudi Drive, especially mothers dread any heavy downpour.
“When we are at work and it begins to rain, we wonder about our children left in the care of baby sitters. This is a critical situation. We’re sitting on a time bomb and waiting, one day one of our kids will drown,” a distraught mother said.
Spokespersons John Kerenga Gugl and Wilbur Katato said if the city authority was unable to rectify the problem, it should relocate the affected families like it had done to residents of Tasion Barracks next door who were moved to make way for the same road that was now affecting them.
“The psychological suffering and property damages we’ve suffered is totally unbearable and unacceptable, and deemed a violation of our right to decent, safe and healthy living,” they said.
“All we want is NCDC as the owner of the road project causing this flooding to solve the problem immediately but that is not happening and it really worries us. The question is how for how long do we have to live with this nightmare and for what reason do we deserve this?”
Last week Katato and Kerenga Gugl met with deputy city manager Frank Ravu who has in turn sent a note to city manager Bernard Kipit.
The wait for an anwer continues. As the rest of Port Moresby welcomes the rains after the long dry spell, families living along Ghaunagaudi Drive are in for another bout of distress.

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