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Port Moresby
September 23, 2021
News Papua New Guinea Southern

Mysterious contamination of Kemp Welch River affects communities of Rigo District

Fish are dying in the Kemp Welch river in Central province due to a mysterious contamination of the river system.

Locals along the riverbeds are greatly being affected by this.

Officials from Rigo District Administration accompanied by members of the media visited Saroa Keina, a village, located along the Kempwelch river last week where locals spoke of the distress they are faced with as a result of this water pollution.

The river has now become murky and is filled with the stench of dead fish. These fish are not fit for human consumption and the water is too dirty to drink.

“Our local councillor has advised us not to wash and drink from this river. More dead fish are surfacing along the banks of the river and I think in one or two weeks, our community will not be the same and I think the situation is the same from Gaunomu upstream all the way down to Kalo.” said Gasiga Labi Burana, a local villager.

This change in the river system started over a week ago, when villagers saw dead fish floating on the surface of the river. Apart from this, the river also seemed muddy and oily.

Camp Welch River at Saroa Keina Village, Central Province.

Women are now fetching water from creeks in the bushes for drinking and cooking. And this is now a challenge for them, as they have to walk long distances.

A local woman, Kila Tola, told EMTV News that only women who are strong enough to walk go to the bushes to fetch water, others do not because of the distance.

Kemp Welch river is one of the biggest river systems in the Central province, and there are many villages located along the river.

Members of the Saroa Keina community speculate that this contamination of the river may have stemmed from landslides or illegal mining activities upstream, however, there are calls for more testing and investigation to be carried out to identify the actual cause of this contamination.

Meanwhile in the city, Port Moresby residents hailing from Kalo village, held an emergency meeting with Rigo MP, Lekwa Gure one weekend to discuss ways to supply relief for their relatives back in the village.

In a statement, the committee explained that Kalo village sits at the mouth of the river leading out to the Hood bay and houses a population of about 5,000, yet faces uncertainty over lack of information regarding the cause of the contamination of the river upstream.

During the meeting, the Kalo Natuna Disaster Relief Committee was formed to address the plight of those affected.

Total funds of K4,000 were raised during this meeting with the aim to bring on water cartage services from Port Moresby to Kalo Village.

Central Governor, Robert Agarobe, presented a total of eight 5,000litre fully kitted water tanks as part of his Government’S support to this unexpected disaster.

Governor Agarobe hand over tanks to people of Kalo village

Kalo Natuna Disaster Relief Committee Coordinator, Iamo Geno, who received the tanks on behalf of Kalo village said, emergency response on the part of the authorities have been slow in dealing with the crisis, however, he thanked Governor Agarobe for a kind donation. The tanks have since been transported and delivered to Kalo village.

Collectively, the rescue to the plight of Kalo village was heard and acted upon by its people who live in the city.

Locals holding up dead fish collected from river banks

The question now, is, what will become of the rest of the communities and villages further up the stream who suffer the same fate?

They too have access to this contaminated river system and are being affected greatly.

As the stench of dead fish and murkiness of the water pose a health risk, they too are appealing to responsible authorities to support them with food supplies and clean drinking water as one of their main sources of survival is, at this time, unable to sustain them.

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