From Ecos magazine, 7 October 2014:
Papua New Guinea (PNG) is a land of diversity, home to hundreds of ethnic groups who between them speak 848 different languages. Its geography ranges from extensive coral reefs, to dense lowland rainforest, to snow-capped peaks more than 4 kilometres above sea level. It is one of the world’s least explored countries, and also home to some of the world’s poorest communities.
PNG’s development challenges are similarly diverse. Climate change threatens to further spread disease such as malaria; sea level rise threatens low-lying coast and islands; the exploitation of timber, minerals and other natural resources is having negative social, economic and cultural effects; and a growing, mobile population is putting a strain on resources and leading to the emergence of poverty-stricken urban ghettos.
CSIRO’s Dr James Butler is one of a number of Australian scientists advising PNG’s government and its people on how to best meet these challenges, and prepare the nation for a more prosperous and sustainable future.
‘The worry overall is that Papua New Guinea is not progressing in terms of human development indicators as fast as other Pacific nations,’ says Dr Butler.
‘This is a big concern because it means somehow or other we’re getting it wrong.’
PNG’s economy is highly dependent on aid, especially from Australia, so there is an incentive for us to help the nation become more self-sustaining. Its geographic proximity to Australia means that issues affecting PNG may ultimately affect Australia.
Population growth and internal migration are putting pressure on resources in many parts of the country. Additionally, in some regions, large areas of biodiverse forest are being decimated for timber or agriculture. In other areas, ‘resource booms’ of mining and gas extraction are attracting international investors; this draws in large numbers of workers from other regions, causing overcrowding and conflict with locals. Read more.