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PNG women suffering mystery disease blamed on Ok Tedi mine pollution

Ok Tedi tailings [1]

Ok Tedi mine tailings pollute the Fly River in Western Province. Image: Circle of Blue

Pacific Scoop:
Report – By Neville Togarewa in Port Moresby

Western Province MPs and other leaders will today present a report about women dying from abnormal bleeding, lack of safe and clean drinking water and related health issues to Chief Secretary Manasupe Zurenuoc.

They called a press conference in Port Moresby yesterday and provided details about their people suffering from what they claim to be pollution caused by discharge of waste from Ok Tedi mine over the years and lack of health and other community services by Ok Tedi Mine and PNG Sustainable Development Programme through Ok Tedi Development Foundation.

Present at the press conference were Member for North Fly and Minister for Art, Culture and Tourism Boka Kondra, South Fly MP and Deputy Speaker of Parliament Aide Ganasi and Member for Middle Fly Roy Biyama.

The executive of the people’s Ok Tedi Mine Impacted Area Association (OTMIAA) were also present – President Nick Bunn, Vice President Elizah Enato and Treasurer Edwin Iara who represent about 70,000 men, women and children from 165 villages impacted by the mine.

The leaders also told the media that they were not a party to the 10th Ok Tedi Supplemental Agreement 2015-1025 signed yesterday and they would take the matter up with Prime Minister Peter O’Neill and the National Executive Council.

“Women and children continue to die (due to) no proper, safe and clean drinking water along the Fly River banks,” they said.

“From recent updates gathered from the communities, the mysterious illnesses affecting the women and children are common in North, South and Middle Fly,” they said.

Teenager died
The leaders who are in contact with their women representatives in some of the villages, revealed that a teenage girl had recently died from abnormal bleeding and another woman is about to die from the same cause.

They released details of reports they have received from women’s representatives Baida Albert Damesa from Wangawanga villages in Aimbiak, a community health worker at Bosset Health Centre Rita Romanus and Narame Makai from Teapopo and Waribodoro villages, as well as YWAM International that was contracted by OTDF to visit some villages in May.

The issues they have highlighted include women and girls experiencing abnormal bleeding two to three times a month; discharge of dark, lumpy blood; lumps on their bodies, abdominal pain; ulcers and sores.

The leaders also said OTML and OTDF have not installed drinking water facilities since the Ninth Supplemental Agreement was signed in 2001.

OTMIAA treasurer Edwin Iara also confirmed that his wife had been suffering from abnormal bleeding since last year and she did not have the strength now to do any heavy work.

“We confirm that these reports from the women are facts about what the women and children are experiencing. We are concerned that OTML, PNGSDP and OKDF have turned a blind eye on the basic needs of our people to have access to safe and clean drinking water,” the six leaders said in a signed joint press statement.

They said people were drinking contaminated water and many women and children had died and would continue to die unless something was done very quickly.

“We are now calling on our Governor Aty Wobiro to clearly state his position on this serious matter affecting the people of Western Province. Since these issues were raised, he has not made any statement to tell the people who he supports and what action he intends to take,” the leaders said.

Source: PNG Post-Courier [2]