Disaster Risks threaten Western Highlands and Simbu Provinces

from UN Development Programme
Published on 12 Oct 2017 View Original

Port Moresby, 12 October 2017– Western Highlands and Simbu, like other Highlands provinces, are prone to many different hazards including floods, landslides, droughts and frosts.

Communities in these provinces are regularly impacted by floods especially those living along the rivers and the flood plains. Infrastructure including the Highlands Highway is also regularly impacted by landslides and other calamities. In 2015/16, both provinces were affected by El Nino-induced drought and frost, especially people living in high altitude areas.

Western Highlands and Simbu are two of the five provinces and regions featured in a risk assessment report produced by a team of experts from the Regional Integrated Multi-Hazard Early Warning System for Africa and Asia (RIMES) and supported by technical specialists from relevant institutions of Papua New Guinea.

Mr. Michael Sembenombo, Project Manager for UNDP’s Disaster Risk Management project said: “While the likelihood of floods is very high for Western Highlands, Simbu is prone to more landslides, based on estimates and disaster modelling developed for these two provinces. Both Western Highlands and Simbu also experience drought in the low altitude areas and frost in the high altitude areas as was the case in 1997/98 and 2015/16. This requires urgent attention and the need to implement risk reduction activities in these two Provinces,” Mr Sembenombo said.

The preliminary results of the assessment report indicate that:

Western Highlands is vulnerable to floods as many of the communities are located along the flood plains and valleys while Simbu is vulnerable to landslides as a result of the land structure in combination with the rainfall and the human activities; There is potential for drought and frost as experienced in 1997, 2015 and 2016 in both low and high altitutes of Simbu province and as experienced during 2015/16 El Nino in Western Highlands where some of the communities located in the high altitutes of the province were severely impacted by the frost; On the other hand, Simbu is is also highly vulnerable to the floods especially the communities situated along major rivers in the province. To prioritise the disaster risks that have been identified for the province, UNDP held a two-day disaster risk reduction planning workshop in Kundiawa from 25-26 September and in Mt Hagen from 28-29 September this year. These workshops were organized with the Simbu and the Western Highlands Provincial Administrations and included participants from provincial government agencies, NGOs, Church, development partners.

During the workshop in Simbu, Ms. Lyn Ibu, Senior Business Development Officer with the Oxfam Internaitonal stated that “from the past disaster experiences, it is important to refocus and introduce more life skills training such as sewing, cooking, baking, carpentry among others. This can help people earn a living rather than depending heavily on agriculture that is mostly affected by drought, frost, flood and landslide.”. Ms Ibu also stressed the importance of creating a saving culture at the community level that enhances self reliant.

The workshop in Western Highlands was opened by Mr. James Papa Ulg, Deputy Provincial Administrator and Chairman of the Provincial Disaster Committee who, in his opening remarks, pointed out that “Western Highlands is prone to natural disasters similar to other provinces and the way DRM is dealt with in the country is more on ad-hoc basis using reactive measures. It is about time to prioritise and invest in DRR with more proactive approaches in planning for medium to long term measures, with the aim of reducing disaster risks and building resilience at the community level. This is vital rather than attending to disasters only when they occur.”

While UNDP and other partners have plans to support the province with partial implementation of the risk reduction plans, the most important commitment is now required from relevant authorities and communities to reduce the risks.

The Disaster Risk Assessment is being conducted as part of the ‘Strengthening Disaster Risk Management in Papua New Guinea’ project, which is implemented by the National Disaster Centre and UNDP and largely funded by Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The project provides strategic support to the Government of PNG to reduce vulnerability and increase resilience to disasters.

Contact information
Serahphina Aupong, UNDP Communications Officer, +675 737 48724,