It is a natural practice in many Papua New Guinean coastal villages to depend upon the sea and its resources for survival, and in Madang Province, it is no different, depending on fish for their daily living as well as a source of income. However, they are now experiencing food shortages due to the ban on the sale of fish in Madang after a slurry spill from the Ramu Nico operations in Basamuk.
In a meeting with the Madang Provincial Administration this morning, locals stated that due to the ban on the sale and consumption of fish in Madang waters, some have resorted to eating coconuts.
Villagers have come forward with videos and other images of dead fish stating that they urgently want a clear answer from the Conservation and Environment Protection Authority (CEPA) and the National Fisheries Authority (NFA) on what the cause is. This is the third week for the ban on the sale of fish, including fish consumption imposed by Madang Provincial Administration.
The ban has been temporarily executed following the spillage at Basamuk in August that had led to claims of fish dying, which is believed to have been a result of the effects of contamination on the marine life in the area.
At 10 this morning, a meeting concerning the issue was held between the Provincial Administration, affected villages, churches, NGOs, Modilon General Hospital, and other government departments.
“CEPA has made a first report, that we have seen, but the second report is yet to be released… our eels are dying, the turtles, the dolphins; not only are they dying along the Rai Coast, but also along the Madang coast all the way to Sumkar and Bogia have given similar accounts – that should trigger further investigations. ”Joseph Bonomane, the Madang Provincial Administrator stated.
Locals have raised concerns over how much longer the ban will be in place, as well as how long it will take for the relevant authorities like CEPA and NFA to provide a clear report to the people.
A local fisherman from Riwo Village along the North-Coast road, Kanai Terry, says they have also seen dead fish washed onto the shores and have restricted locals from going out fishing.
Terry says the National Government needs to find money to sustain coastal villages that depend on fish for their daily meal and as a source of income.
“Now that you (the government) have declared the ban, you have to declare a state of emergency within that 3 months in the province so that the National Government will budget funds for the coastal people of Madang, to sustain the livelihoods of Madang people for that timeframe until such time where a better solution has been found,” Kanai Terry demanded.
Villagers from as far as Long and Bagabag islands have also reported finding dead fish that had led them to stay away from the sea.
A number of villages in Madang have been forced to eat coconuts, and are calling on the national government to find alternatives to sustain them.
“If you put a ban, you must look at alternatives on how to sustain them (the affected villages). We thought CEPA would come quick with their report, that is taking too long and now we have a situation at hand.” Simon Simoi, an official from Madang Provincial Administration stated.
Dr Judith Gawi of Modilon General Hospital who was part of the gathering this morning (October 16), said for the last 20 days, they have received reports from clinics that a number of patients were experiencing body numbness or skin rashes from swimming in the sea. The hospital carried out clinical verifications and has put those patients on treatment based on the patients’ complaints.
Dr Gawi commented that the initial treatments have rectified those patients’ conditions, thus, they have no evidence yet to prove that those cases were results of toxic chemicals found in the sea from the spillage.
“Among all the patients I treated, I have not established a reason what the cause was. So with the investigation that CEPA will release, including NFA and the provincial government – that will be of great assistance to us.” Dr Judith Gawi stated.
By Martha Louis – EMTV News, Madang