Disaster Risk Reduction in Papua New Guinea, Status Report (July 2019)



Papua New Guinea is among the largest Pacific island states located in Oceania, covering an area of 462,840 km2 . The country also occupies the eastern half of the island of New Guinea, four additional islands, and encompasses over 600 small islets and atolls. Many of these islands are of volcanic origin, thus being relatively young in geological terms. The geography is characterized by vast valleys and mountain ranges, tropical forests, open plains and coastal ecosystem (CFE-DM, 2019). As a result of this ecological variety, PNG is a home to 7 percent of the world’s biodiversity (CEPA, 2018), and most of the landmass is covered by dense forests which are classified among the three largest tropical forests in the world (WWF, 2019). Administratively, the country is divided into four regions and 22 provinces, which are further divided into 87 districts. Additionally, it should be noted that the four main regions are based on geographical divide of the country – the Highlands, Islands, Momase and Southern Regions.

Due to the diversity and availability of natural resources, including oil, gas and minerals, the country’s economy has been on an ascending trend as the global demand has grown. Since the early 2000’s, the growth of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita has averaged 4 percent, despite export revenues fluctuating depending on the global commodity prices (World Bank, 2019). As of 2014, the key industries driving the growth were agriculture, forestry & fishing (18.8%), mining & quarrying (26.1%) as well as wholesale & retail trade (11%) (figure 1). It is also worth noting that since the beginning of the production of Liquefied Natural Gas in 2014, industrial sectors experienced a boost of 322.6% (National Statistics Office, 2016). Timber has also supported the development; approximately 72.6% of the land mass is covered by primary or naturally regenerating forests, which produced about 4.1 million m3 of wood for the markets in 2017 (ETTF, 2018).

Despite the progress, challenges remain. The government has acknowledged that efforts and investments directed towards maintaining infrastructure, improving service delivery across the geographically dispersed nation, and turning profit into wealth and prosperity for all in a sustainable manner must be given high priority to guarantee that the development goal of ranking among the top 50 countries in the world on the Human Development Index (HDI) by mid-century will be achieved (Department of Treasury, 2017). Simultaneously, climate change, increasing risks of disasters, flooding and environmental degradation require increasing investments, human capita and planning to mitigate the potential climate change and disaster impacts in the future.

Located in the active Pacific Ring of Fire, PNG is ranked among the most disasterprone countries due to the geophysical conditions (National Disaster Centre, 2017). Natural hazards, including earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic activity, cyclones, flooding, landslides and droughts are contributing to the risks; PNG ranks highest in terms of population exposed to severe volcanic risk, and is among the top six countries for the highest percentage of population exposed to earthquakes (GFDRR, 2016). On the INFORM risk index of 2019, PNG has a high-risk ranking (5.6), with lack of coping capacity highlighted as the leading contributor to disaster risks (INFORM, 2019). Adding to the challenges, the intensity of hydrometeorological hazards is projected to grow more severe as a result of climate change.