Department of Works (DoW) secretary David Wereh on Monday admitted that maintaining rural roads throughout the country is a massive problem for the government.
He made the admission when Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) announced it would start a K40 million four-year project with the Papua New Guinea government to start repairing selected rural gravel roads in four provinces in 2014.
“Roads are very important to this country,” Wereh said at a meeting to kick start the project.
“We have about 8,700km of national roads and about 21,000km of provincial roads.
“Trying to manage these roads and keeping them in passable condition is a huge challenge and task for the department that is mandated to upkeep these roads.
“Every year we talk about money.
“It just requires enough resources to ensure that these roads are kept in a passable condition.
“On the back of the roads, we can talk about service delivery, growing the economy and others.
“We at the department were exploring options that can help us to overcome the backlog of issues we have, both on the provincial roads and national roads.”
Wereh said the start of the project marked a milestone as JICA partnered with DoW to refleet the once-thriving plant and transport branch (PTB) that was revived in 2008.
“We’re looking at sustainable maintenance operations, how we can continue to upkeep our roads in both provincial and some sections of the national highways.
“Initially, it will be piloted in the four regional (DoW) offices, and then it will expand out to other provinces and districts throughout the country.
“Roads should always be kept in a passable condition.
“What is happening at the moment is that we are attending to maintenance needs as and when we have funding.
“That’s why we see that sometimes roads are in good condition, sometimes roads are in bad condition.
“Trying to keep roads in better condition is always an issue and a major challenge.
“We believe that the partnership that JICA and we (DoW) are going into should provide some sustainable maintenance programmes on some of the key roads throughout the country.”
The project in Morobe, East Sepik, West New Britain and Western Highlands seeks to assist PNG, which is facing problems in road maintenance, by carrying out capacity improvement on its implementing agencies.
JICA will provide K32 million which provides for heavy equipment to revive the once-thriving plant and transport branch (PTB) and road building, while PNG will provide counterpart funding of K10 million.
Road sections of 10-20km will be built in the four provinces, meaning up to 80km will be built over the four years.