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25 March 2017


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Go here for some interesting water-use graphics from the 2006 demographic health survey.

Keep in mind that the pictorial statistics are from six years before PNG Vision 2050 and are now a decade older.

Note the Main Source of Drinking Water is surface water for the vast majority of PNG citizens. Surface water may not necessarily be a safe or secure potable source for very many reasons, e.g. heavy rain with runoff containment animal/human waste.

Also note Time Required to Fetch Water in Madang for example takes 31 minutes. This mean no doubt comes with a very large variance but does provide the impression that citizens, usually women and children, are required to fetch water as a part of their daily activities.

The longer it takes logically means the further distance they need to travel to fetch water. In today.s PNG fetching water from distant locations is neither safe nor secure for women and children.

The truth of the statistics remains: access to safe drinking water remains a major challenge in PNG in both rural and urban areas.

One cannot argue against summary statistics within the purview of limited personal experiences. That's just silly.

Besides, where is your alternative statistics?

Oh, that's right, the National Statistics Office and the PNG government doesn't bother with such statistics in its development planning.

I recall reading in one of our dailies about a village on the side of a mountain overlooking Kutubu oil fields receiving their donor funded water piping around 2012.

Kutubu began operating in 1980.

Argue this statistic: 32 years, 5 different governments and SHP is one of the wealthiest provinces in PNG.

PNG has a water problem. We have the best water in the world but unfortunately it is not available to all.

I live a few metres from one of the town water supply tanks and have been trying for years to get access to water.

The pipes run next to my property and I live next to properties with water. I'm willing to pay for the service but it's just not made available.

I now have units to rent but I can't guarantee a constant water supply for my tenants. My neighbours have lived for years without a good supply of water too.

There are some streams and even pristine rivers that give you the best tasting sweet drinking water in this country.

If you find such a water source anywhere in this country, please look after it and do not destroy it!

Its worth more than gold.

Baka, what had me disturbed was that a pipeline (about 80mm pvc) was laid (700mm below ground) starting in the high hills of Mount Gahavisuka where there was little or no population (thus the water was uncontaminated).

It wound its way down and crossed under the highway and continued down to Nagamiufa and further. The pipeline was laid by AusAID some years before I was there.

The pipe passed through some 21 villages, and a tapped standpipe was placed at each village. The water was intend for domestic and light agricultural use.

Unfortunately, due to the jealousies of various villages along the pipeline route, village tappings were altered to a much larger tapping, particularly in the flatter farming areas.

Often the tappings broke and water was wasted. Eventually, the people at the lower end of the line were receiving little or no water.

And even more eventually, rival users damaged other tappings and damaged the pipe (crowbar through the pipe wall).

I approached AusAID to see if a full repair could be done. Their response to me, when I described the current condition of the pipe was, “You have to be kidding !”.

I did advise AusAID that while the pipe was a brilliant project, a water committee of villagers should have been formed who would inspect the pipe along its length and warn villagers not to interfere with the pipe in any way, apart from their tapping.

Today the pipeline is not functioning.

AusAID has a history of designing and delivering projects that are sound technically, but fail to realise that there is a social contract to be formed with the recipients of aid, and it would have been wise to allocate some funds to train a committee to manage the water pipeline, and some funds for the inevitable repairs. The EHP Government simply ignored the project.

This project would have been included in the AusAID Annual Report, and they would have been proud to say “Well, we have spent $X million on aid to EHP, so we have done well”. The Australian electorate would have been impressed with the $X million spent on aid.

Then again I used to drink water straight out of the Fly River. I remember quite clearly scooping water up in a bucket from the side of the chug-chugging 'MV Jade' and then having a swig from a mug.

Wouldn't try that again anytime soon!

Interesting debate there on water in PNG.

It is possible that PNG although has many water sources, the quality of the water for a good number of citizens is still an issue.

It is also possible that some places in PNG actually do not have access to clean and healthy drinking water. The towns and cities would be areas where clean water would be an issue, with growing urbanisation and population growth.

We really don't know if it is really sensationalism or trying to sell sad stories for further donor assistance?

For many rural areas, it may be the case of villages and communities still needing to bring good fresh water from fair amount of distances which have a cost factor.

Phil, currently Mt. Hagen town has water from the Kum river. it is pumped up from near Kugumamp to a filtering and treatment station near Rebiamul rugby ground and then on into the town. Years ago there was a hydro station at Kugumamp but this has long been abandoned.

For eight years in the 80s I was Venturer Leader with Burleigh Heads Scout Group. Each year I arranged for my teenage male and female charges to have a tour of the Sewage Treatment Plant. Quite an eye-and nose-opener! Everyone should be obliged to do it - no holding back. Go with the flow and don’t obstruct it!

As Baka points out William, I wasn't referring to streams near towns like Goroka, or indeed downstream from villages. Everyone knows that's dangerous.

As I recall Mount Hagen had water via the Gumanch River running in barats through the town for people to use. The water was tapped upstream, run through the town and then back into the river downstream.

Some of the sweetest water is in those limestone dolines in the karst country in Gulf and Western.

Which village did you live in Goroka? William Robinson, Apo, we don't drink river water or stream water. We have spring water.

Which kaulong advised you could drink stream water? Anywhere, if you had asked, there would have been a spring within 20 meters upstream or downstream where a spring would have been either seeping or oozing from a side of a raised area.

If there was none, if the locals showed you a Ghehega or Mesinopa tree, at its roots there would be a spring. There would have been plenty of these water harbinger trees if you knew them in the valleys surrounding Goroka town.

These trees are deemed to having the ability to draw up water from deep in the ground. And for typhoid, it is embedded in the wanmaus that is too commonplace there.

Phil, who has travelled the width and breath of PNG, surely meant a stream cascading in pristine forest and bush where human beings did not live and yes where you could stick a bamboo pipe or a leaf of a pandanus plant into the ground and drink your fill. He did not mean our type of streams.

As a kid, it was my mandated task to ensure that we had water in the house at all time.

I did that every day, every afternoon, I had two of those containers that is shown in the caption filled in the house, and I kept at it until I left to go to do my Grade 11 outside of the province.

It was a 20 minute chore and I loved it. It was a noble task for me as I did not want my mother to go look for water after a hard day at the garden. Does that mean I grew up without clean water? No. I did replace the water each day so we had no stale water.

I had three sources to choose from. The best choice and tastiest one meant a waddle through and from a calf length mud path. The spring seeped through yellow mud which was called 'pake' and it was called 'Paketo'.

We children did collect water from there reluctantly as the mud path was some 100 meters long. The mud never at any one time got into any of the containers I hauled.

The next best one that seeped through grayish black guie mud. It however came with a lot of silt and we tried ingenuous ways to minimize ways the silt including leaves of ferns as filters. The taste of this water kept even after 3 days, even better if a fern leaf was placed in it.

My mum preferred this water to water from Paketo. The biggest flowing spring I thought did not have taste and this was where every other child went to fetch their water, was my last preference and only if anything happened to my guie spring or Paketo.

Our issue in the villages was not that we lacked water, we just needed to bring it into the village and let it run in the village. Any open cause way was going to be contaminated by all manner of things and for my area, pigs digging up the cause way as we raise pigs by free ranging them.

The next problem was if the water was to be piped, it needed to have pressure and have gravity induced flow. Unfortunately my three sources are on even keel or were below the village so my village cannot have piped running water.

Aah, water can be piped, if it comes from the mountains 3 kilometers away and through several other villages. My village does not have any bilateral links with the spring owners on the mountain.

We don't have interaction other than sharing the same language and limited contact on the sports field with village games and the occasional drunk brawls with them after a village dance.

When that happens, it can turn dicey. They can cut of the water supply for the simplest of conflict. That is not only at the source but at every village the pipe has to pass in order to get to my village.

At this time regard for public infrastructure is way down the list. My village just returns to fetching their water from Paketo and Nosa Gopato and my grandchildren are going to have their turns at hauling those 20 litre containers from these same springs.

So for Water Aid, if they are assisting to bring water to villages, my village needs assistance to bring water from these 3 springs to the village. How do we provide gravitational feed to any one of these springs?

Water Aid need not worry about the ATS community. Communities in the city play around with too much money. They can afford to pool together to assist themselves in a jiffy. It is the reliance on too much Government or member handout is killing community spirit.

Getting a 64% rating for non access to clean water is a urban community problem, though we villagers do want clean non disruptive running piped water in our village to stop us from wadding through mud.

Rural communities don't have the ability to pool money together in a jiffy. They do grow a lot of commodities but these cannot be exchanged for money for one reason or another quiet easily. It is in these areas that Water Aid can concentrate their effort and each village has its own unique situation. One type solution does not fit all our problems.

There you are, Water Aid. ATS is an urban community and not a rural community nor is ATS Papua New Guinea.

Phil, your “perfectly safe to drink straight from flowing streams - no problems there” is well wide of the mark.

I lived in a village close to Goroka for some three years, and regularly crossed a stream between two villages.

I always carried water collected in tanks and drums in my home village. One day I forgot my good water and drank from the stream, resulting in a case of typhoid.

While there was no pain, I slept for 48 hours, rising every 4 hours to shit clear liquid into a bucket beside my bed, and later to feel I had no guts left.

After I had recovered my villagers warned me never to drink from a stream. Why? Because many thousands of people upstream shit regularly into the stream or close by. My stream was not any different from similar streams in PNG or around the world.

The locals get quite a lot of artesian water from pipes stuck into a cliff face. This water would have been ground filtered over the aeons, and probably would be the finest water to be found.

The modern world has separated its human waste from humans, even though the vast users of flushing dunnies would not have a clue about where the brown matter and paper disappears to. “I dunno - it just disappears down a pipe somehow”. Most are not aware of the sewerage treatment plants outside the town area.

The article and statistics included is based on the situation in rural areas which in PNG this is not the case. We have an abundance of freshwater systems that have sustained us since time immemorial till now. It should focus on water accessibility in urban areas as per the example provided for ATS and maybe small islands inhabited by people. Unlike rural Africa, PNG rural areas have an abundance of water sources except for small islands.

There is plenty of clean water in PNG. Out in the bush it is perfectly safe to drink straight from flowing streams. No problems there.

The problem lies in the towns where there are large urban populations and the water infrastructure is inadequate due to government failings.

Despite the claim that the report relates to rural areas the figures probably reflect a per-capita calculation (guess) made only around the towns and, as such, are misleading. I can't imagine anyone has done a survey of the whole country as is apparently claimed.

One has to be very careful with such claims. Sometimes they can tarnish the reputation of a country on the flimsiest of evidence.

And, really, what's the point of this sort of stuff? The politicians in PNG are unashameable and it's water off a pig's back. It certainly won't help the settlements get better water supplies.

The claim that "Papua New Guinea – home to 7.2 million people – already experiences cyclones, river flooding, coastal erosion and droughts, among other natural disasters.

"The annual rainy season is often followed by drought, making food and water shortages commonplace. Just last year, the World Food Program estimated there were nearly 80,000 people affected" is simply crap.

In PNG we are better with fresh water. Whoever posted that PNG is the worst country in the world with water is a total liar. That picture is not us.

Stop spoiling our PNG name by this kind of false information by including us together with African countries. Your post seems to be racist against blacks.

I think you need to open your eyes to the facts, Nicholas. The report was prepared by an independent organisation concerned that many people do not have access to clean water and which wants to do something to fix this - KJ

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