Flying over Vanimo town, your eyes will catch the long white beaches with rings of breaking waves circling the long Vanimo bay towards the west. It’s truly one of the last beauties of PNG before Asia.
But underneath that beauty, deep underground, are water pipes that have rusted and blocked with debris that have not been cleared for almost 40 years.
It’s the pipes that run the town’s water and sanitation system. Years of neglect have left them somewhat useless. Try turning a water tap on and all you will hear is a slight squeak similar to a deflating balloon without any water coming out.
It’s this problem that town residents are now appealing to the relevant authorities and the Government to address as they are fed up of relying on rain water which is a seasonal thing in PNG.
When EMTV NEWS visited the residents of Makepa Hill, they had beautiful homes and a breathtaking view towards the famous Narimo Islands outside Vanimo town. Obviously it was a prime location for real estate. But behind their homes, there were makeshift water catchments, rusted drums and fallen tanks which clearly indicated they had no water.
“It’s an issue we’ve faced since I was a kid,” said Trevor Maiyu, a long-time resident and a public servant in Vanimo.
“When its dry season and all our tanks are empty, we are forced to look for water. We usually hire private water businesses to come refill our tanks but it is now a costly exercise,” Maiyu said.
While this is becoming a costly exercise, people are forced to find nearby water sources like bore water or travel the highway to the West Coast to fetch from river streams.
In the Makepa area, there is only one bore water source that serves the hundreds living between the Vanimo Hospital area, Dali compound, Makepa, including East and West Tower.
“This water source serves the hospital staff and their families, including Dali and Makepa. And even the residents of East and West Tower come to fetch water from here. So if you want to fetch water, and it’s a busy day, you can wait for at least 3 to 4 hours,” another Makepa resident, Yvonne Kime said.
But that is not only the problem. Health risks are also high when there are hundreds using a single drum to fetch water.
“We don’t know who used the water before us. It can be someone who is sick and spits into that drum. Or someone can come and wash their dirty clothes and then we come and use it after. It’s really a bad practice, and it must be addressed, because we need water from running taps, not from a source underground that is untreated,”
However on the brighter side of this issue, the National Government through its WASH Policy is trying to improve and deliver clean and safe water to every Papua New Guinean.
This is also captured in the 5 year development plan of West Sepik which the Provincial Administrator Conrad Tilau recently presented to the National Planning Department.
But the only question now on every Vanimo resident’s mind is when this project will start.
By Stanley Ove Jnr – EMTV NEWS PORT MORESBY