Sunday, September 14, 2008

Japanese Stockade in West Papua


by Charles Roring, from Manokwari, West Papua.
Yesterday, I walked around my neighborhood. There were two elementary schools, one kindergarten, one junior high and one Church. When I passed by the Padma II elementary school, I saw an interesting concrete structure located in the middle of the school yard. It was a small stockade made of concrete material. I guess it was built by WW II prisoners of war, who were mainly Dutch, under the instruction of Japanese forces.
The chaos of World War II had long been over. Now, the quiet neighborhood was usually noisy in the mornings full of children playing around during school hours. I brought a digital camera at the time. I shot the stockade. I didn't see any children playing inside it. Perhaps, they are afraid of ghosts lingering in that concrete structure. Or maybe they get bored with that old fortification. I saw that the stockade was being dumped with garbage. I realize that people do not really know the history of this town. If the local government really know about the history of this stockades, they will maintain them as World Waf II monuments. Tourists can come to these monuments and recount the fierce battle of the Pacific.
There are many such stockades in West Papua. The Japanese used them during the war to defend themselves against US bombardments. Now, years after the bloody war, these fortifications are abandoned. Many are dumped with garbages. Migrants who came later to this town might not know that tens of years ago, this little town was the battle field of two major powers of the Pacific. Unexploded bombs had been cleared up from the town by the Ducth in 1950s. There are some unexploded bombs in the jungles. I cannot mention the exact number but there are. Many lie at the bottom of the sea slowly corroding. I am concerned that some fishermen have picked them up and used them as explosive material for blast fishing.
Blast fishing is a dangerous practice for the sustainability of coral reef and marine life. One blast can damage the soft and hard corals, polyps, fish and tiny marine creatures. We need to remind the fishermen to stop using this fishing method as soon as possible.
Besides the unexploded bombs, wrecks on the bottom of the sea contain fuel oil that is trapped in corroding tanks. If the tanks leak, oil will flow out and polute the reefs, fish and the beach. There are hundreds of shipwrecks in the Pacific region. We need to observe them closely. They are very fragile structure that can cause environmental pollution anytime in the future.