ARAWA, Bougainville; Images of the Revival from Ruins
In the early 1980’s, the town of Arawa on the southern side of the main Bougainville Island was one of the most developed towns in Papua New Guinea and the South Pacific.
Located on scenic Arawa Bay on the site of a large plantation, Arawa was established in the late 196Os as planned suburban town for the employees of the Bougainville Copper Ltd which was operating the large open copper, gold and silver open pit mine at Panguna.
When PNG became Independent in 1975, Arawa became the Administrative and Economic Provincial Capital of the North Solomon’s Province.
The town was developed to accommodate over 15,000 people who were either directly or indirectly employed by BCL, or by the Papua New Guinea and North Solomons Provincial Governments.
There were over 1850 houses in the town. It boasted large shopping centers, banks, modern health facilities, dentistry, resorts, clubs, large well kept golf courses, sports fields with stadium lights and more. It was a great place to live, work and play.
However, in 1988, the Bougainville Conflict erupted into full scale warfare and overnight thousands fled the town.
For 10 – 15 years, it was a hot bed of fighting and only a few persons who were not PNG Soldiers, Bougainville Revolutionary Army fighters or other factional fighters, ever ventured in there to see what happened to the town.
In 1997, the Bougainville Cease Fire was agreed to and all fighters and soldiers decided to return normalcy to Bougainville.
Though it took some more years, in the mid 2000’s more people began to venture into Arawa to see the town they once knew. It was a traumatic experience for many, who had wonderful memories of the place. A lot of people who related their stories to me told me how they cried when they first went back. The beautiful Arawa town was now a jungle with ruined buildings.
But there is a movement to rebuild some of the town.
A lot of people now have moved back and live at Arawa at some of the houses and they have turned the ruins into stores selling anything from clothe, beer, CD’s, store goods, traditional items and more.
The Autonomous Bougainville Government will be operating in the area soon with administrative staff headquarters being worked on at the old Provincial Headquarters there. Primary and High Schools are open, Telikom is providing excellent coverage there, PNG Power and the Department of Works are planning to move back to their old pre-crisis bases there and the Arawa Health Center are open.
Here you will find all the pictures I have taken on my visit to Arawa with captions. I would and I think many others would appreciate it, if you could add your own comments and share your Arawa memories at the end of this post.
A special thanks to Zhon Bosco of Bougainville Experience Tours. One of the enterprising Bougainvilleans from this area who are trying to develop better employment opportunities and rebuild Bougainville, Zhon takes visitors trekking, bird watching, sightseeing, cultural events and other activities on the main island.
If you would like to visit Arawa, Kieta, Panguna and see many sites, contact Zhon on Phone: +675 71626393 /+675 76263583 or email him email@example.com.
I will put up images of Arawa before the crisis soon but enjoy these ones below and like i said, share your thoughts.
Share your memories.