THE existing roads in Papua New Guinea’s Highlands region have collapsed and lost their form. Some are not even accessible by trucks.
The government funded the road to be at a peak state through development grants and loans from overseas. However, there are many deteriorating sections of road. The most vulnerable is the Okuk Highway.
Poor road conditions are due to a lack of reliable supervision, especially by the government engineers from the Works Department, to ensure the contractor is meeting requirements and expectations.
The construction companies lack skillful civil engineers, machine operators, foremen, and labourers to build a durable quality road. This may have been due to the LNG Project offering the best packages to attract the most qualified.
Additionally, most construction companies do not have permanent engineers but engage engineers and designers casually. The advice doesn’t seem so much to produce a quality road but to consume the money allocated to be spent on it.
The other issue is land compensation. The government spends millions of kina to pay compensation; money which doesn’t go to help improve the road.
Nature also plays a role. Topography and geographical features are a paramount concern since most civil engineers don’t seem to talk to geographers and surveyors before imparting their civil engineering concepts. Vegetation and weather cause the quality of the road to vanish in a short time span.
The Okuk Highway is a trunk road that benefits the bulk of the population including the mining and gas companies that generate billions of kina for the country.
But road users struggle to get to their destinations. They are directly affected since they depend on the road.
The worst part of the Okuk Highway is in Simbu Province particularly the Gera and Mindima section of the Highway.
Most people living along the Okuk Highway and the feeder roads use the bad road condition to abuse trucks and commuters. Day and night they claim portions of the road as their garden or ATM to draw hard cash from commuters and trucks.
They claim compensation, demand for money to patch the potholes and put their hands out to push and pull cars and trucks through mud and clay.
Despite this, the road network is paramount infrastructure that cannot be denied.
It is needed to sustain the daily livelihood of the people and to provide for their development.