Preparing for the big flood


By ELLEN TIAMUTHE landowners of the Bintip Dampi Indigenous Land Group (ILG) in Morobe are hoping to meet with ILG groups in Kainantu and Obura Wonenara in Eastern Highlands to discuss and consolidate a way forward as a large group with one voice in regard to the much-touted Ramu 2 hydro project that will run through Eastern Highlands and Morobe.
Altogether, about 20 ILG groups from both provinces have registered as with the Lands department with that number expected to increase.
To be managed by Kumul Consolidated Holdings (KCH) and PNG Power, Ramu 2 will be a major project that will nearly triple the output of Yonki Dam in Eastern Highlands to parts of the highlands, Madang and Lae. The planned power plant is scheduled to be built on the flat plains of the Markham valley, in the Umi Atzera LLG, where the Dampi Dampi people live.
The chairman of the Bintip Dampi Indigenous Land Group, Stanley Samar, met representatives of Kumul Consolidated Holdings last week to discuss options that the Markham people have in terms of benefiting financially fromn the dam..
Samar said they have seen for themselves how other hydro projects, or other major projects for that matter, have left the landowners with very little to be thankful for and he doesn’t want that to happen with his people.
He said his group is in the process of appointing its executives to work on a structure, a constitution and business plan. The Markham landowners’ group seeks to work with other landowner groups in the project, as well as MPs, local level governments and provincial administrations from both sides of the border to garner support and help make the project a success.
Chinese companies Shenzen Energy and Sinohydro will build the dam at a cost of about US$2 billion (K5.97 bil). According to Samar, the power plant part of the infrastructure will be located in the Watarais area where his people have surrendered 200 hectares of their traditional land for the site.
“The economic potential of this project is quite immense, it could triple or quadruple the power supply to mining sites in or near this area,” he said.
“This project has a lifespan of 100 years and we want to grab the opportunity to benefit our people now and for generations to come.”
But before anything can begin on the ground, everyone involved has to reach a common ground and consensus.
“We want to see oneness and cooperation from all landowner groups from Morobe and Eastern Highlands because that is what the consortium and KCH will want. We must have one voice and not be bogged down with petty landowner issues,” Samar said.
“For us, we want to set a precedent in terms of development in our area. Since independence, we have never had a high impact project such as this. Markham has never seen change. Water and soil are our gold and silver.”
The Ramu 2 project will be based on a public-private partnership (PPP) model, which will see traditional landowners assume equity.
Kumul Consolidated Holdings is working on a build-lease-transfer arrangement by which the business and infrastructure will be handed over to landowners, the respective local level governments and provincial governments and the State after 25 years.
“We want to be proactive and be professional in our dealings with other stakeholders, organisations and companies we are to work with,” Samar said. Other corridor landowner groups around Markham and the Obura Wonenara and Kainantu districts are also poised to gain from the project when it starts.