K5 million to fix Wantoat road

National, Normal


COMPENSATION of any kind will not be on our lips when the work on our road gets underway, that’s the assurance from the Leron-Wantoat people of Kaiapit district in Markham, Morobe, when K5 million was committed by the government to fix their road.
The people said they had suffered “far too long” and needed good road and the commitment made by the government through Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Works and Transport, Don Polye, was “heaven sent”.
They will make sure there is no hindrance of any kind to the project.
Leron-Wantoat council president Steven Mambon said in Lae yesterday that his people had agreed to work together with the project developers from the start of the project to the finish.
“If our gardens, coffee plots, piggeries and even houses and, or villages have to make way for the road, we will just comply because road is more important to us now than anything,” Mambon said.
He clarified that Leron River gorge through to Wantoat were situated in the hinterlands of the Markham Valley and the people found it difficult to transport cash crops like coffee, vanilla, peanuts, vegetables, taro, bananas and yam to the markets in Lae, Gusap, Mutzing and even Kainantu and Goroka.
Mambon, who was a former Markham MP and currently the provincial chairman for communications, said his people had been ignored for the last 15 years and the only means of transport for them was by walking on foot and floating down the Leron River with their produce on inflated rubber tubes.  
He said river floating was a dangerous way of transport because people had experiences where their produce and even lives were lost when the tube capsized in strong currents.
Mambon said the history of the road, stretching back to 1956 when the people built it using shovels and sticks until 1964. 
He came home as a young man after completing his education at Kerevat and then Vudal agricultural college and stood for council presidential election which he won and was president from 1968 to 1972.
When he became the president of the then Morobe district area authority (MDAA) in 1975, he engaged a government engineer named John Blocke, to carry out a survey which took five days and four nights.
Blocke concluded that the road would not be possible because of rough terrains, gorges, rivers and creeks and it would cost millions to build and maintain.
“That shattered my hopes but I went around it by authorising K30,000 funding from MDAA to fund the project,” Mambon said, adding that the engineer was proven wrong because after five years, a first four-wheel drive vehicle made it to Wantoat.
After he won the Markham open seat in 1987, K2.5 million was allocated for road maintenance including construction of two bridges.
He said from 1989 to 1990, 15 and 20-seater buses could travel to and from Wantoat.
He said rural development fund at the time was only K50,000, which was insufficient but he did his best to keep the road useable.