The Presentation Society supporting clean water to the villagers of Arop, PNG
The Presentation focus for International Day for the Eradication of Poverty on 17 October 2016 is support to the villagers of Arop, Papua New Guinea for a clean water system. The launch of the system on 15 August 2016 saw 20 tanks installed for people who have suffered re-location after the devastation of their coastal homes by the 1998 tsunami.
Eighteen years ago, on 17 July 1998, an undersea earthquake took place with a moment magnitude of 7.0 (Severe). The event occurred on a reverse fault near the north coast region of Papua New Guinea, 25 kilometres (15.5 miles) from the coast near Aitape, and caused a large undersea landslide which resulted in a tsunami that hit the coast, killing at least 2,200 people.
Several villages in the path of the tsunami were completely destroyed and others extensively damaged. The village of Arop was situated on a narrow spit between the coast and Sissano lagoon. It was directly in the path of the tsunami and was worst hit.
The Presentation Sisters had a community house in the village of Arop. By some miracle, none of the Sisters were home at the time. There were Sisters at the nearby village of Malol. They were the first to see survivors dazed and looking for help with dreadful injuries. Our Presentation Sisters were the ones who got word of the disaster to the wider world.
The people of Arop were among those from several villages who moved their buildings further back from the sea when they rebuilt. These fisher/coastal people had to begin a whole new way of life with many from their community among the deceased. The new village of Arop is now away from the ocean. There was no fresh water supply. To obtain water they walk two hours to the Ilingi River to fill their 20 litre (5.28 gallons) plastic water containers and then walk back carrying the water.
In 2014, the Presentation family around the world collected money on the occasion of the Eradication of Poverty Day and designated it for the new village of Arop to help establish a clean water system.
Following community discussions, a plan was formulated to install water tanks. The water tanks had to be picked up by two trucks in Wewak and then take the seven hour trip over rough roads and through rivers to Aitape and then another two hours to Arop. The roofs of houses in Aitape are predominantly made from sago palm. Installation of the guttering and pipes needed were more expensive than the tanks.
Originally the hope was to get 60 tanks at a cost of approximately AU$3,000 ($US2,160). The money from our 2014 collection allowed for 20.
The official launching of the 20 tanks happened on 15 August 2016. There was much appreciation from the people. Their whole lives are going to be changed. These coastal people found it so hard to change their life-style in the midst of their grief. Many years later the tanks are a small way to restore the gift of water close to their homes.
Anne Lane, PBVM , Congregation Leader of Presentation Sisters Wagga and Papua New Guinea.