By Edwin Fidelis – EMTV News, Kokopo
The Warangoi Hydropower plant is under threat of a shutdown as landowners demand equal participation in its redevelopment.
The hydropower plant is expected to undergo a major upgrade; but landowners say work will not continue, as there isn’t any agreement that indicates their inclusion in the project on their customary land.
“We want good infrastructures, health facilities, roads. We’ve been promised these 37 years ago but nothing eventuate”, said George Metsep, Chairman of the Warangoi Landowners.
The Warangoi Hydropower station is a controversial power plant; first, the hydro has not seen any major upgrade since its establishment about 30 years ago. Secondly, the landowners of which the hydro is located want a fair share of development on their land. The landowners claimed their forefathers have been threatened and no formal agreement was agreed to allow the development of the hydro three decades ago.
“We want an official MoU to be made available by PNG Power that indicates our entitlements to the benefits. So far, there hasn’t been one”, said Nicholas Reo, a representative of the landowners’ stewardship council.
Last week, the landowners issued a two-week ultimatum to the Government to respond to their demands, or they will force a temporary closure of the hydro. The East New Britain Provincial Government had since responded to the landowners’ concerns.
East New Britain Governor, Nakikus Konga, has made it his personal responsibility to bring the landowners’ concerns to State Owned Enterprise Minister, William Duma.
The landowners say they are seeking an immediate response from the Government, as numerous concerns raised in previous years, haven’t been attended to. They say a possible solution to their outstanding demands is to close the hydro and demand the Government to listen to them.
“PNG Power Limited and other state-owned businesses are part of the Government. We landowners own 70 percent of the land. So we want to partner with the Government. And that’s our agenda”, said Boniface Setavo, a member of the landowners’ stewardship council.
The Warangoi Hydropower station is the only source of electricity providing about 10 megawatts to the entire East New Britain Province. In recent years, ailing infrastructure has caused the electricity supply to drop, thus prompting an upgrade.
Any actions taken by landowners to shut down the power plant means no adequate Electricity in East New Britain Province. But the landowners say they don’t want that to happen but are only asking for a negotiation process between them, the Government and PNG Power.
PNG Power was not able to give an official response on this matter but it is understood the state-owned company is aware of the issue and will take appropriate action.