An entry in the 2015 Rivers Award
for Writing on Peace & Harmony
NEWS about the water level at the Sirinumu Dam dropping to an all-time low got me thinking about what would happen if we ran out of water.
One of my good friends whom I bumped into few days ago probably summed up the situation well. He said if the dam runs out of water, the people in the Port Moresby settlements will go on a rampage.
Water pipes will be ripped apart or dug up to free the remaining water while shops will be looted as people go in search of bottled water. This conjured in my mind images of the Mad Max movies.
I wonder what would happen if food shortages due to drought strike Moresby at the same time we experience a drop in the city’s main dam?
Stories of drought-related deaths in the highlands already indicate the severity of the situation. Experts say this is the worst drought since 1997 and speculation is that it will continue into 2016. If it does we can only pray that it does not hit a highly populated area.
The current state of the economy is not helping. PNG, which is already said to be reaching crisis point. If things get worse it may affect our ability to import food whichwould be catastrophic for PNG.
Food and water, two of human’s necessities for survival, are what keep us sane. Without them, pandemonium reigns – 6,000 years of civilisation brought to chaos as war and destruction of property become rampant.
Peace and harmony replaced by fear, anxiety and desperation.
Since moving with my family to Erima settlement three years ago, I have seen how desperate people become when water is not accessible. They walk for hours just to get to the nearest tap.
I often hear women arguing over water. Sometimes they argue the shortage is due to someone not paying a water bill while at other times they argue over petty matters relating to taps.
We don’t want to see things reach a crisis because surely fights will erupt and even lives will be lost.
Yet we have no excuse for bringing this situation upon ourselves given that mostly we have an abundance of fresh water and food to sustain our needs. We have been described as the food bowl of the world because of our large agricultural base.
Historically PNG is said to be the home of the first subsistence farming. But right now the reality is that food security is a global concern and PNG is no different.
When we get back to normality, we must ensure that PNG agriculture does not lag behind the extractive industries in terms of government priorities. Farmers need to be prepared well in advance for drought and frost.
Foods able to withstand harsh conditions need to be identified and embraced. Such an approach will ensure that we maintain a consistent supply of food to feed our growing population in bad times as well as good.
With water we need to take a similar approach. Our fresh water reserve is such that at one point the Southern Highlands Government was looking at piping fresh water to Queensland. It’s about time the government explored options to support the Sirinumu Dam.
We cannot go on being reactive to crises because that can be fatal. Droughts, frost and economic crisis are things that PNG is familiar with and it’s about time we had contingency plans to withstand their adverse effects.