By ZACHERY PER
LAIGAVE Aratigupa may not remember his exact birthday or the years he attended school. But he knows like the back of his hand the layout of water pipes in Goroka town.
“I know very well every water pipe connection in Goroka town. I can just stand here and tell you how the water pipes are connected. I can tell you where exactly to dig and fix any problem affecting water flow.”
It is why friends and colleagues refer to him as the “walking map of the Goroka town water supply system”.
He and wife Atte have six children. But one died leaving one son and four daughters living with them at Okiyufa village just outside Goroka town.
Goroka town has no map showing its water pipe connections. That is why Laigave is as precious to the town authorities as the water itself.
“ I am the living map and design of the Goroka town water supply. Nobody can provide a map and design. It’s only me.”
Laigave believes his age is somewhere in the 70s. He remembers being kicked out of Grade Six at the Okiyufa Primary School because the school wanted to keep only small children. They regarded him as too big to be in Grade Six.
“So I was employed as a storekeeper with Collins and Leahy in North Goroka. I then went to Baiyer River in Western Highlands and was trained as a cowboy at the cattle farm.”
He also learnt there how to connect water pipes and general plumbing work.
He returned to Goroka after more than two years and was offered a job as a plumber by the town manager Bob Balancevilla.
“I told him during the interview that I was trained as a cowboy and a plumber and I can connect water pipes. He contacted my bosses in Baiyer River who confirmed what I said.”
He went through four months of on-the-job training as a plumber, carpenter and painter.
“They told me to do all the plumbing work including the piping of the entire Goroka town water supply system and storage tanks. I was also engaged to do plumbing work for the eight districts’ headquarters in Eastern Highlands.”
He also looked after health and education facilities when the town expanded and the population increased.
Goroka town authorities later refused to release him to other districts and told him to concentrate on the town’s water supply system.
Town residents have been complaining about the low pressure of water which Laigave attributes to the changes made to the pipe sizes in 2001 and 2002 during an upgrade of the water supply system. They replaced the 200 ml pipes with 80ml pipes.
“That is why water consumers in town are getting lower water pressure from the 80 ml pipes connected to the Southern Cross tank at Mt Kiss.”
He is assisted by Philip Yassi from Okapa district.
“I was only paid (around) K5 as my starting salary. I have remained loyal to today and well past the retirement age. I do not complain about my pay. I remain loyal to serving Goroka town.
“I am the living map and design of the Goroka town water supply. Nobody can provide a map and design. It’s only me.”