By Lillian Sopera Keneqa – EMTV News, Port Moresby
Kumalu River in the Wau-Bulolo District of Morobe Province has been making headlines over the years due to its disastrous flooding causing havoc to the people living near it. For over 15 years, the Gulav Landowners Association have written to the Works Department, however, their petition has fallen on deaf ears.
Association President, Okam Sakalias, told EMTV News that it is not nature that causes these floods, it was purely man-made and the National Department of Works is held accountable for this. The Landowners claim that due to the construction of the control dam upstream of the Kumalu River by the Department of Works and Implementation, the damming and diversion of the stream has caused chaos.
Mr Sakalias stated that: “When the Kumalu River floods many people get superstitious. However, it is man made by the Works Department, which will be made permanent forever.”
They were promised a part payment of K500,000 from the Works Department for Kumalu River damages however, to date, nothing has been done.
“We have been referred to the Works Secretary who referred us to the lawyer who referred us back to the secretary and they referred us to the Attorney General who referred us to NEC. We are so frustrated. We were supposed to receive our claim payment but nothing has happened,” said Mr Sakalias.
In 1999, the Department of Works and Implementation contracted the Chinese Overseas Engineering Company (COVEC) to build a control dam. The control dam was built upstream of the Kumalu river to protect the double lane bridge from being washed away from flooding as construction for the bridges had already started in 1997.
“We (landowners) did not agree for the dam to be built. It provides refuge for us. We told the engineers if they build the dam, we will be destroyed, but they told us it would slow the current and they went ahead and built it,” stated Mr Sakalias.
However, in 2006, the dam burst due to high suspended matter collected and accumulated after the dam was built.
“8 Villages were destroyed and continue to be affected every year. Everything has been destroyed because of the dam,” Sakalias said.
Due to constant requests from landowners, in 2018 a team from the Conservation and Environment Protection Authority (CEPA) were tasked to do the environmental impact assessment to verify the environmental damage claims. The team found that the claims were true and provided valid documents for the landowner association to pursue their case.
“The Works Secretary (David Wereh) told the Department to do the payments but we have not received anything.” Mr Sakalias says the landowners are tired of not being heard.
“We call on the Government: Sam Basil, Prime Minister please heed our request because anytime soon we will block the roads until the Government adheres to us. The Works Department is held responsible for the Kumalu river constant flooding.”