Posts Categorized: Environment

Buka town improving aesthetically

By Ishmael Palipal

790-buka-market

Starting with the upgrade of the drainage system in January of 2015, the current Bougainville capital of Buka has been gradually improving aesthetically. The drainage system has meant adequate waterways and residential areas during the rainy seasons.

The upgrade and the sealing of the roads and streets in the town added have also added to the polished look. Dekenai Construction did the honors of sealing the once dusty or muddy roads of the town in a project valued at K9.7 million.

The sealed roads and the drainage system has given Buka an improved town look. In the past was like a small country side town or village when there were none of these developments.

Adding to these, are the Moonray town security have been very active in their duty of keeping the town clean.

Moonray security is contracted by the town council to keep the watch to make sure that all the people in the town are mindful of their rubbish when in town. With their presence in town, the Buka town area now stays clean all day.

790-buka

The spitting of betel nut in the town area on the cement, road or on the ground around town can be penalized with a K20 on spot fine. Throwing rubbish on the wrong spot can also be fined and a refusal to pay can result in the offender being taken to the police station as authorized by the town authority.

Early every morning the security firm personnel do a cleanup of the town picking up rubbish dropped in the night, ensuring the town is clean to start the day.

To beautify the road junctions, flower gardens have erected, especially the junction at the side of the City Pharmacy building and the junction leading into the Buka General Hospital and Toyena Guest House.

Giving a bit of color to the buildings is the Digicel PNG promotional signboards and painting of buildings into their trademark red. This marketing strategy is also giving another improved look to the stores, the main market and other road side markets.

All of these improvements mentioned above a contributing to the new improved look for Buka town, though there are more improvements that the town needs such as proper building planning, town planning, sea side improvements and town landscaping and public parks.

Read more

Ratu – The feared Fire Tree

By Pauline Karalus

812-fire-tree

Trekking through the thick jungles of the fine-looking island floating peacefully over the sea, there are many species of animals and plants to discover, most of them harmless, living in the beauty of the tropical sunshine.

Growing up in the wildernesses is so much fun and you are trained to differentiate the edible plants and animals from non-edible ones. Some of these plants and animals are poisonous, though most of them are not and journeying with older and wiser members of your tribe helps you absorb the knowledge and the great qualities from them.

Many of Bougainville’s population prefer the jungle to towns or cities. They love nature and the everyday welcomes them into the wildernesses in search of food or for fun with the lovely creatures inhabiting the forests.

The different species of animals and plants found in these rainforests add variety to Bougainville’s stunning canopy-covered bushes. Rivers snaking in between these striking jungles make the view even more breathtaking for visitors and locals as well.

Amongst the creatures and plants there exists a plant typically known by the locals for the sharp pains it can inflict once in contact with the human body. The Fire Tree, which is traditionally given the name Rotu grows in the tropical jungles of the island and is not commonly known by visitors who tour the island for various reasons.

There are two species of Rotu. The first type of the Rotu species has all green leaves whilst the second of its kind has green and maroon leaves and the plants often grow close together.

The first kind of the Rotu species having all green leaves is called Kaana Kege in the Telei language meaning “Bone Scratchy”, since pains developed when contact with the leaves which lasts for a number of days. These sharps require no medicine however the person naturally cures from it slowly as time goes by. These kinds grow in abundance along river banks and most commonly un-noticed by the human race and come into contact with whilst fishing along these riverbanks or picnicking during leisure periods.

The second kind of the Rotu species with maroon and green leaves is called Mai Tururu in our mother-tongue meaning “Dog’s Pee”, and this brings about pains that do not last for very long. Once your body is in contact with a Mai Tururu, you will feel very painful sharp pains compared to the pain you would feel when in contact with a Kaana Kege, but the pain dissipates quickly. For first timers the pain seems to be so hard to handle that you may even pee your trousers before you realize it.

Rotu trees grow as tall as 10 to 20 meters and continue to be feared by the local people. The cutting down of these fire trees does not even seem to decrease the number, however it is feared that continues cutting down of these rare species will one day cause them to become extinct.

Read more

The power of nature on display as Loluai River blocks travellers

By Benjamin Heribeths

852-buin-road

The Loluai River, the biggest river in Buin, blocked the road for travellers all the way from Buin and Siwai, due to a heavy downpour.

The heavy rain also swept a small home with couple of houses in Wakunai. The road, which is so treacherous in Wakunai and Buin, delays the arrival of traveller at their destinations.

Passengers from nearby villages in the Kieta frontier were worried about what had happened and the current of the river was so strong that it swept away all the gravel until nothing was left but big stones that no vehicles can pass through.

Highway drivers spent time clearing a new route to avoid the blockade, but not before some passengers travelling to the airport missed their flight due to the natural blockade.

After one day the road was cleared and now vehicles returned to travel the route between Buin and Siwai.

852-loluai-bridge

One regular driver stated that the nearby villages must take extra precautions due to the fact that accidents can happened while they are asleep late at night.

“If the rain doesn’t stop we will have more trouble,” he said.

Drivers and the passengers were also worried that this treacherous road can lead to heavy car breakdowns, which are expensive to repair.

Changes to weather patterns and the climate is causing the inconveniences throughout Bougainville.

“We may raise concerns but it is beyond our limit to control the nature that comes in its own ways,” said one passenger.

Read more

Mine pit drainage threatens Panguna hamlet

By Leonard Fong Roka

839-makosi-panguna

A family hamlet of Makosi, in the Upper Tailings area of the Panguna District, is under threat from water erosion and the residents have requested to move to a new location in the near future.

The family thinks the government should step in to assist in slowing down the rate of erosion generated by the water that originates from the abandoned Panguna Mine pit.

The family’s matriarch, Therese Pokamari, said their homestead was founded in 2004 by her eldest son, but now she sees no future if the erosion caused by the tunnel waterway washes away their houses, which had been built on the sedimentation and gravel from the Panguna mine.

“Our homes are what we value most as Bougainvilleans,” Mrs Pokamari said.

“If Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL) was still operating I can go and tell them to fix this threat for my family.

“But they are gone, so we now have the government to look into issues affecting us.

“When BCL was operating, we all know, it maintained some order of the installations it had.

“But having left without properly closing down the mine we the Panguna people now face the problems.”

The volume of water leaving the Panguna Mine pit that is some 500 metres deep and 1 kilometer wide is large. It is sucked vertically down two or more pipe systems and reaches the drainage tunnel some hundred metres underground. From there the water—with additions from the many subterranean water systems—flows south and then west for 6 kilometres and comes out at the Makosi land where Pokamari dwells with her family.

“Makosi was our family’s only flat land in this mountainous Panguna District,” Pokamari admitted,

“Bougainville’s first president, the late Joseph Kabui – who is my uncle, played and gardened here as a child before the Panguna Mine was created.

839-makosi-panguna-erosion

“With the mine prematurely shut in 1990, my family came back to build homes here,” Pokamari continued, “in fact, the local level government office, a community’s aid post and a police post are all housed here on the Makosi land.”

“More developments are coming on this land, but their future is at stake with the threat posed by this waterway.

The Makosi land is the only massive flat area in the entire Tumpusiong Valley or the Upper Tailings area accessible by vehicles, thus local government authorities have chosen to settle there to serve the locals.

The family also established a kindergarten on their hamlet servicing the Upper Tailings area with now over 100 students that feeds into primary schools at Dapera, Darenai, Oune, and Sipatako.

“Makosi land was divided between my mother and her two other sisters,” Pokamari revealed.

“Makosi 1, which is higher in elevation, went to my two aunties and Makosi 2, which is lower in elevation, came to my mother and that is where I am.

“So Makosi 2 is now subjected to erosion since the flowing water body is attracted to the bank that is lowest.”

Read more

The majestic setting of Asitavi Secondary School

By Pauline Karalus

836-asitavi-rocky-beach

Isolated from the trunk road linking Buka and Buin via Arawa, Saint Mary’s Asitavi Catholic Girl’s Secondary School lays on the Wakunai coastline some few minutes’ drive from the main road. The track leading to the school, which was recently upgraded from high school status, is often covered in bushes due to the fact that visitors call into the school grounds infrequently.

Visitors who enter the school grounds have to be with genuine reasons and this tradition is upheld to ensure smooth running of the school.

Strictly a girl’s school and technically being a mission school, students attending Asitavi Secondary abide by strict regulations of the institution. Adherence to school rules is highly practiced in fear of being terminated when caught on spot breaking any of these rules.

Isolated from the nearby areas of Wakunai, visitors from within the region occasionally call in at the school during road trips and field works bringing food and necessities for their relatives attending the school, otherwise isolation from the outside world lasts until term breaks or Christmas breaks.

The holidays are the most exciting moments of these young school girls. Overjoyed to hit the highway back to their loved homes, they wait for arranged highway vehicles to pick them up with their luggage.

A chapel built within the school grounds accommodates the staff and students of Asitavi Secondary School and even nearby villagers from nearby places during mass services. Asitavi Secondary School students have a reputation for being disciplined in their studies and behavior. They continue to shine out the best imparted into them by the nuns. This Asitavi sisterhood is maintained even when selected to other secondary schools to continue grade 11 and 12.

The school is located near the sea, thus weekends are spent chilling at the beach. School girls are not allowed to get into any conversation with outsider boys met along the beach.

Asitavi’s coastline is totally unique and outstanding. The beach is comprised of two main sectors. The first sector towards the edges where the waves call in and hit is made up of beautifully colored pebbles ranging in sizes. Towards the school grounds is sand dark blue in color on the surface and white underneath.

The pebbles have given the place the name Asitavi Rocky Beach, which it is called now throughout the entire region.

Read more

Close call for peace building team at flooded wet crossing

By Eleanor Maineke

759-siripai-highway

Bougainville’s southern region is connected by the road link that runs from Arawa in Central Bougainville via Panguna and through Bana, Siwai and Buin or via the Arawa-Aropa, Buin, Siwai and Bana route.

The two paths are known for their treacherous wet crossings and are regarded as vital by the population in the South to access most basic services in Arawa and Buka, such as banking facilities.

For public servants, access to Buka is vital to meet with departmental heads in Buka, especially health, education and the House of Assembly for the government in Kubu.

On the 16 of March 2016, the shortest route to Siwai, via Panguna, was blocked at Pikei village of Bana district. The blockade was due to an unsettled case between the law enforcers and a family who lost their son at the hands of the police some months ago.

The case was pending a hearing and it was being prolonged for reasons are unclear. In their frustration the relatives deceased of the deceased hijacked a vehicle belonging to the BABA (Banoni-Baitsi) Council of Elders level of government. The hijack led to the people of Pikei village to block the main highway with the cutting of a huge rain tree that fell across the road.

The blockade greatly affected the public motor vehicle (PMV) services from Siwai to Arawa. The only option left to reach Siwai was via Aropa-Buin highway which is a 3-4 hour drive through a number of wet crossings.

There was an interview consultation scheduled by the Bougainville Peace Building Program (BPBP) in Siwai on the 16 and 17 March, so the team travelled via the Buin route and reached Buin town around 6pm.

Five minutes’ drive away from Buin town towards Siwai, the trip was hindered by the flooded Siripai River. The river runs down from the mountains of Buin and it is the river that was identified as the river to generate hydro-electricity to the southern region of Bougainville, with a baseline study was said to be conducted in 2014.

When the BPBP team travelling to Siwai arrived, there was already a ten-seater landcrusier locked on a rock in the middle of the river. As the driver and the passengers were trying to push the vehicle off the rock, the flood rose with a much stronger current that eventually pulled off the vehicle’s bonnet and turned over the vehicle.

759-siripai-flooding-vehicle

There was nothing much to be done just to watch the vehicle trapped, overturned by the flood. Vehicles were on both sides stranded by the flood. The PMV’s travelling from Arawa to Siwai waited till the flood went down and crossed the flood at around 10pm.

Due to concerns for the security and safety of the BPBP team, they drove back to Buin town and slept there. That was the safest decision because the Siripai River was just one of the many rivers that laid away in the Buin-Siwai highway.

The accident that occurred on the 16th of March by the nature of Siripai River was not the first in the southern part of Bougainville. Many vehicles and people have been victims of the wet crossings and floods.

The road conditions and the big rivers in the south are significant issues to the people of Bougainville, especially South Bougainville. There is a need for bridges and fixing the road conditions in the area for proper accessibility and for people’s safety and security.

Read more

Siripai flooding overturns ‘Pundaun Kirap’

By Pauline Karalus

A vehicle with passengers inside makes an unsuccessful attempt to cross the flooding Siripai. A vehicle with passengers inside makes an unsuccessful attempt to cross the flooding Siripai.

The southern part of Bougainville is known for its fast flowing rivers which, without bridges block off travellers, overturn vehicles and even destroy villages and gardens during the peak rainy periods.

Most of these rivers have had bridges built over them at some point, but which don’t seem to last long. The rivers themselves sweep away the nicely built bridges during heavy floods, affecting the locals’ access to services.

Local people know the times that they can cross these fast flowing rivers either by vehicles or on foot.

For people in Siwai and Nagovis, Siripai in Buin is one of the rivers that must be crossed to get to Buin Town, the main shopping centre for the southern region.

This river does not really have a good geographic location to have a bridge built over since it is in the lowlands and it is common to hear people repeat this fact to each other when they are stranded on either side of the river.

When Siripai floods it cuts off access to government services for the people of Kanauro, Piano, Siwai and Nagovis .

Siripai holds a bad record of overturning and sweeping away crossing vehicles with passengers in them, trying their best to escape, and in most cases the passengers struggle and swim to the river banks whilst the vehicle is flooded, damaged and swept away.

The search for the smashed vehicle begins when the flooding stops and if found nearby, it gets brought to nearby workshops to have it fixed and within a few days the vehicle is back on the road.

Most times drivers cross the river fast enough before being swept away by the current, but this is never a certainty.

The most common times for Siripai to flood is in the afternoons so people going to or coming back from town have to cross the river before around 1pm or 2pm. When it floods passengers on both sides, desperate to arrive at their destinations, wait patiently waiting for the floods to finish so they can cross.

Villages on both sides of the river provide hospitality to those passing by in vehicles that need somewhere to stay and wait for the flooding to stop.

Recently, Siripai flooded and overturned a crossing vehicle which made the other drivers to turn back with their vehicles.

A ten seater known as Pundaun Kirap, owned by a local businessman, was overturned whilst trying to cross the flooded river.

The driver must have underestimated the river currents and tried to cross the river but by then it was too late. It is very likely Pundaun Kirap is at some workshop waiting to get repaired to be on the road again.

Read more

The mighty Robiai River

745-karalus-robaiBy Pauline Karalus

Bougainville is truly blessed and has abundance resources ranging from the minerals to the tropical rainforests and the inhabitants of them. Within these thick jungles whether it be in the mountains or in the lowlands there are big fast flowing rivers adding beautification and admiration to the forests for visitors and tourists.

These rivers home to fish, eels and prawns which play an important role in providing protein for local people. They are also said to be home to spirits and along these riverbanks there are certain taboo places where people are restricted from fishing or bathing except the elders of a specific clan who own the place.

The Robiai River in Buin district which flows down from Lake Loloru is a river with so much mystery related to it and there are traditional legends related to it which are passed down the generations.

The river is about 10-12 meters wide and runs out of Lake Loloru finding its way down to the sea. The blue of the deep waters of Robiai is totally different than the other rivers and means that fish cannot be easily spotted in deep areas. The blue color is believed to be from the presence of minerals either along the river or at its source.

745-the-robai-riverThe river is simultaneously a threat and a helper to the locals. It provides the local people with fresh water for drinking alongside its banks and is used for bathing. Fishing for prawns, fish and eels in little pools of water the river leaves behind or runs in a different direction is the locals’ hobby during dry seasons.

However, the local people are cautious with the destruction it brings. When it floods it swipes everything in its path and can last for three to four days. Within this period mothers and small children are never allowed to go anywhere near the river.

In its history Robiai has taken the lives of so many young and old people. My Dad’s sister was swept away by the current when trying to cross t just as it was starting to flood. Newly married, but without any children, she died. Her body was found stuck on a huge uprooted tree which the flooded river carried and dumped some kilometers away from the sea.

Gardens made and villages built beside the river are usually swept away by the mighty Robiai when it floods. So many lessons have been learnt, thus villages have been built further away from the river and locals’ have specific timings on when it’s the best time to go fishing or picnicking along the river banks.

Robiai continues to be the source of food and money for the local people. Hearing so many legends and tales about this river, I have grown up and came to experience what I used to hear when I was small.

The mighty Robiai is a blessing; however security and safety precautions are up to individuals.

Read more

Heavy rain causes flooding at Arawa Hospital

Tevu Tenasi

741-bougainville-flood

The continued down pour of heavy rain within Bougainville has caused flooding in most areas in February.

741-sr-genevive-anisiaThe Arawa District Hospital was been a busy place where most people within Central Bougainville and others as far as South Bougainville have been coming to receive healthcare services.

A few weeks ago the health facility was seen flooded with excessive rain water in the general ward, the labour ward, operating theatre and maternity ward.

As a result the hospital staff on duty could not deliver the necessary care and treatment to most patients admitted within the facility for a day.

The main cause of this was a result of blockage to water drainage system within the facility itself.

741-tracey-tsiroatsAccording to the Health Extention Officer of Arawa District Hospital, Miss Tracey Tsiroats, hospital itinerary items, such drugs, cotton wool and delivery sets, were damage.

While a thorough check in each hospital section was made, the items within pathology and the family support centre could not be saved as they were locked.

Thanks to the Mr Hare Eravu, a longtime serving health worker in Arawa, and his local knowledge, the drainage pipes were able to be cleared of all debris thus allowing full drainage of the excess water.

The aftermath of the flooding left the hospital staff almost a week of clean up.

Read more

A cry in the heart of a Panguna saw miller

By Leonard Fong Roka

710-domiura-panguna

My uncle Steven Domiura is just 32 years of age and over this relatively short period of time he has witnessed the burden that local population growth has put on the few forest resources that his communities in the Tumpusiong Valley of Panguna District can reach to improve their living standards.

A trip to mill my timber at Nakorei Village in Buin last December was a cry in his heart.

The hardwood tropical tree (called bee in Nasioi, tolas in Buka or Moikui to the Buin people) is a sought after tree for building homes across Bougainville. It is sawn raw or felled and left to decompose its outer bark and expose the hardwood and timber millers love it since their chainsaw reaps the tree easily despite its hardness and weight.

In the Upper Tailings zone of the Tumpusiong Valley this valuable timber tree, both those matured and standing and those felled many years ago and laying on the ground, have now disappeared. There are a few still buried in the Panguna mine created tailings of the Tumpusiong Valley but that will take some period to await erosion to expose them for the timber hungry Tumpusiong people.

Since getting his chainsaw four years ago, Domiura had not touched a bee in his timber milling career at home, but a trip to Nakorei Village was mesmerized as he was hopping for four days from bee to bee, around the tiny hamlet of my in-laws.

“In Panguna today we have the money or have easy access to cash but no tree to cut and mill timber to build our homes,” he said in Buin.

“Unlike up at Panguna, the people at Nakorei village struggle a little to make money but they have the resources like the jungle to help them improve their living standards.

“In Buin’s Nakorei Village everywhere you look there is a moikui lying on the ground or standing in the forest waiting to be milled for timber, but in Panguna every maturing tree is felled day by day to meet their needs.”

710-saw-mill-buin

Most people in the Panguna District now go searching for timber into the Bana, Siwai and Buin Districts of South Bougainville. At home most are penetrating deep into Bougainville’s mountain backbone the Crown Prince Range, while others travel north on the east coast of Bougainville as far as Wakunai District for timber. Others are growing their own trees or buying timber at the many timber yards in Arawa Town.

For Steven Domiura and his chainsaw Nakorei Village was a shock. Out of the 350 pieces of timber on my list he milled 230 pieces in four days, intermittently giving way to the downpour of rain.

‘The bee here is too much,’ he was joked, “in the kitchen huts, under all these sago thatched homes they lay waiting for a chainsaw to cut them up.”

“In the gardens and the cocoa plots the timber hoisting trees are there.”

“Many of these trees, felled some years back, have decomposed their outer softer skin layers and are now dry that the chainsaw has no difficulty penetrating the bole so I have the efficiency to get more timber in a day.”

Steven and his machine will be back in Buin in February to complete his contract of milling my timber for a house in Buin and continue onto extracting timber for a house in Panguna.

Milling timber in Buin for Panguna has its own costs especially transport from Buin to Panguna that is about K1000. Getting Steven to Buin from Panguna costs some money. His chainsaw hire goes for a K150 per day and the operator goes for a K100 per day including his assistants.

The chainsaw’s fuel and lubricants gets a toll on pockets. In Arawa petrol hangs around K5 per litre and the pre-mix goes to K6 and in Buin it goes up to K6 per litre and the premix goes to K7. While the 2-stroke oils to mix with the petrol vary in accordance to their container sizes.

The engine oil to cool the cutting chain is the most expensive item so most rural chainsaw operators now prefer cooking oil for their machines, but nothing should come in between to bringing a chainsaw man from Panguna to Buin.

There is a belief, perhaps embellished, across the timber milling populace of Bougainville that a chainsaw man from an environment with no trees will kill any tree with more efficiency than the chainsaw man from the tree-rich environment.

Read more