People of the northern region of Malaita province have called on responsible authorities to fix and upgrade several bridges and crossings that have been damaged by heavy rain and flooding over the past few months.
In most crossings the circular culverts that hold up the bridges have collapsed, making them dangerous for vehicles and pedestrians alike. People in the area say if left unchecked the possibility of serious accidents is highly likely. People in the area continue to use the bridges and crossings because it is their only connection to the provincial capital, Auki.
John Kiri, a community elder from Mbita’ama in North Malaita, told Solomon Times Online that people in his community, in the worst affected areas, spend three to five hours just waiting for the river to calm before they attempt to cross.
“There is a total of up to five culvert crossings that urgently need upgrade, these all areas in the northern region such as O'ofu, Mamafua, Faubobolo, O'one, and Nao. We need a permanent solution, not like the current ones which is just supported by coconut trunks,” Kiri said as he led the way to one of the crossings.
“It is sad to see this, especially with women and kids who are sometimes standard with their market goods. Sometimes they wait until nightfall and they miss the boat to Honiara, or they cannot continue onto the market in Auki to sell their produce.
“Most of as in the northern region are coconut, cocoa and kava farmers who depend on selling our produce at the Auki market or in Honiara,” Kiri said.
He also says that with the current COVID-19 pandemic the problem becomes more desperate, especially if there is an emergency.
“Hospital vehicles from Malu’u have problems transporting sick patients to the main Kilu’ufi hospital in Auki, and there are cases where they have no choice but to return to Malu’u with their sick patients.
“This is also the same with police when they try to attend to incidents in the northern region, sometimes they cannot come, and this is not good for our community,” Kiri said as he points out one of the culverts that gave way recently.
He urges responsible authorities to look at building permanent solutions, one that can withstand torrential rainfalls and flooding. He says that the negative impact on his community should justify such an intervention from the government.
“What does the government want to see happen before they respond, it is a dangerous situation and people are desperate so they will continue to make attempts to cross these very unstable bridges – it is a risk but they have no choice.”