By ERIC PIET
A ROAD, as they say, is the lifeblood of any functional society.
Be it in the domain of government or business, mobility to and from an area to access goods and services, and making a living and sustenance of livelihoods through market accessibility, roads make it all happen.
Imagine life without such a vital infrastructure in this time and age when the world is fast shrinking due to advancement in technology, and the emergence of quality roads is one of the products resulting in conquering of places in shorter times than previously thought.
Roads have made travel easier for rural communities. However, missing links still exist and a fair portion of the population in the country is grappling with daily life challenges due to lack of road connectivity.
One such isolated place in PNG is the beautiful Karimui valley in the Karimui-Nomane district in Chimbu. The district covers more than 3,200 square kilometres, more than half the land area of Chimbu and is divided into two parts, with Salt and Nomane local level government areas to the north and the southerly Karimui local level government area.
Karimui LLG which is featured in this article, is nestled at the lower altitude of 800 metres above sea level with a climate of moderate to high humidity compared to the rest of Chimbu. It has a population of about 40,000 people that have been landlocked without access to roads since independence. Karimui is a fertile valley, which is likened to Canaan in Bible lands – a land flowing with milk and honey – for its ability to produced high yields of a variety of crops; not only those grown in the Highlands region but its coastal-like ecology allows for the prolific growth of crops such as cocoa, betel nut and coconuts. Sounds unbelievable but that is the undeniable truth of Karimui. Since there is no road, most of the produce goes to waste.
It also is a sad truth that most government services established there during the colonial administration have deteriorated over the years forcing district administration staff to live and get their pay in Kundiawa, the provincial capital.
Under these circumstances, Karimui people have to travel a long way to seek government services, where they usually put up with perilous journeys of climbing high mountains and crossing fast flowing rivers including the Tua and the Whagi rivers to get to Kundiawa town.
Considering this, one, especially an outsider may be led to rant at the Government for negligence on its part to build a road to lighten the continuous predicaments of this people who face very trying situations on a daily basis. The reality however, is that the fault lies not in the Government but bureaucratic powers between Waigani and Kundiawa, and recently, the politics of the district.
In fact the Somare regime in July 2005 through Don Polye, the then Transport Minister had approved and gazetted the Gumine-Karimui link as a national road. From Somare’s time until the current O’Neill regime, about K40 million has been expended on this road project so far, which is still incomplete. About 11km including a bridge over the Waghi River remain to be completed before Karimui finally gets linked to the outside. But political interference, according to the locals, is now becoming a hindrance to the progress and completion of this important asset.
The Karimui people through their leaders in former MP Posi Menai, Mathew Appa (Ward 10 Karimui LLG community leader), Annunga Yarra (Ward 21 leader), Seke Ulago (Ward 17 representative), David Kiru (Ward 19), and Ben Kale representing the Yabadibol landowners of Gumine district, are calling on MP Geoffrey Kama not to embark on a new route linking Kilau and Karimui. This proposed road was launched recently but the leaders argue that it will be a waste of government resources and time.
“The Gumine-Karimui road is a gazzeted road and should not be abandoned. It only has 11km left to be completed before we get full outside connectivity,” the leaders said.
“Our MP should use the funds on this road rather than on the newly proposed ungazetted 38km road that consists of 4km upgrading and 34km of clearing virgin forest through a very rugged terrain.
“We the people of Karimui totally disagree with our MP’s decision to divert the funding for the Gumine-Karimui Road to a new project.
“Our people have been relying on the expensive air transport since independence and we desperately need this road; as such Kama should not politicise this project but get it out of the way as it has been long overdue,” the Karimui leaders said.
By ERIC PIET