Terence Kapipi Yacop –
Wepio Media Agency
For years the Mendi – Nipa road was the only major road connecting the Hela Province to Southern Highlands and the rest of Papua New Guinea but that has changed with the opening of Hiri – Lai Highway constructed by nationally owned firm IPWENZ Construction.
From the Junction of the Mendi- Kandep- Lai Valley road at the foot of Mount Wiri in the Lai Valley Region just over the Lai River Ipwenz Constructions carved out 26 Kilometres of rugged mountains covered with jungles to establish a much shorter route to Hiri, Magarima in Hela Province.
A once forgotten people of the Upper Lai that votes in Komo Magarima in Hela and Mendi Open in Southern Highlands with little government services – that usually reach them on shoulder backs – can now part take in economic activities on a daily basis on the Hiri – Lai Highway.
Young Ipwenz Constructions Engineer Nathaniel Timothy working on his first major project since graduating from the University of Technology sees the construction of the roads as a game changer for the region as he explained the process of the constructions.
“Since the project kicked off eight months ago Ipwenz Constructions had done clear grubbing, road widening and gravelling of the entire Hiri Lai road. We also constructed bridges to over rivers,” explained Mr. Timothy.
“Pavement improvements, basket works, line drain, earth wall and concrete works are on going. When these preparations are done crush materials of sub-base and base course materials will be place on the road before road sealing can go ahead for the 26 Kilometres of the Hiri Lai road,” added Mr. Timothy.
“This is a region populated by around 20, 000 people but for a long time cut off from government services, the Hiri Lai road has opened up a life changing new economic corridor. The thriving Tamin Top market which was just recently the middle of a jungle populated by the wilds is a testament of that,” pointed out the young engineer.
The Hiri Primary School, Waip Primary School, Kema Primary school, Kema Health Centre, Waip Health Center and Hiri Hela Centre are directly on the Hiri Lai Highway and have seen great improvements in accessing much needed supplies which improve the quality education and life saving health services.
The Connect PNG initiative by the Marape Government may not look so flashy in the eyes of the public but it continues to bring out more of the rural disadvantaged people to be participate in the nation’s economy and the Hiri Lai Highway is just one part of an initiative to connect the nation.