Villagers demand K600,000 before Govt can clear road

National, Normal


TOWAN villagers at the Kumipte landslip section of the Highlands Highway between Nipa and Margarima in Southern Highlands province are demanding K600,000 from the Government before the road can be allowed to be cleared for traffic use again.
Since the landslip that occurred on the early hours of last Monday, traffic flow to Tari and Hela regions have been seriously disrupted.
When The National visited the site last Wednesday and yesterday morning, Towan villagers had created a by-pass and charging a fee for light vehicles that pass through.
About 10m of the road is covered by thick mud and debris after the section of the Kumipte mountain range slipped onto the road due to heavy rain.
Provincial Works manager Allan Tolo sent in an assessment team last week to the area to do inspections and make an urgent request for funding from the National Department of Works to carry out clearance of the road.
The workmen, however, were presented with a written demand by the villagers at Towan last Tuesday.
The demand was signed by four local councillors and 12 other leaders.
The villagers said since the National Government had “set a precedent” by paying landowners money when landslips occurred along the Highlands Highway at Simbu, Eastern Highlands and other parts of Southern Highlands in the past, it was only fair that they, too, be compensated for the destruction done by the landslip.
The provincial government last week released K120,000 for a contractor to carry out urgent clearance of the road.
A provincial government officer said K100,000 was for a local contractor to use its machines while K20,000 was for the use of local labour.
However, when the team went to the site last Saturday with the money, the villagers told them to go away with the K20,000.
Meanwhile, owners of 4WD vehicles and trucks were paying between K100  and K300 to use the by-pass.