National IWRM Diagnostic Report Papua New Guinea


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National IWRM Diagnostic Report Papua New Guinea

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Diagnostic Report


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Located south of the equator in the South-western Pacific, PNG is the largest and most populous Pacific Island nation. It consists of the eastern half of the island of New Guinea, several large high volcanic islands and numerous high volcanic islands and coral atolls. Its diverse geography gives rise to an equally diverse range of ecosystems which accommodate a wide variety of flora and fauna making up 5% of the world's biodiversity. Its population of 5.8 million people is also diverse in ethnicity, language, custom and culture. Eighty five percent of the population live in the rural areas on a subsistence lifestyle while the rest live in urban areas either as employees in the formal sector or engaged in a range of informal sector income earning activities such as market gardening, small livestock husbandry and other service based business activities. A large proportion of urban dwellers are unemployed and rely on relatives for support.

The country has a substantial amount of freshwater resources including springs, creeks, rivers, lakes, wetlands and groundwater. The main water uses are domestic consumption, hydropower generation and a wide range of industrial uses. In the rural areas the main sources of potable water are rainwater tanks, shallow hand-dug wells, springs, creeks and rivers. Only 20% of the rural population have access to improved water supply systems while the rest consume rainwater contained in tanks or water obtained directly from the source. In the urban areas 60% of the population have access to treated water reticulated to their households while the rest who reside in the peri-urban areas have to make do with water delivered through standpipes.

The story with sanitation is not as good. In the rural areas three modes of human waste disposal are used: septic toilets, pit toilets and direct defecation into the environment. An alarming 78% of the population, which is more than 4 million people, do not have access to safe sanitation services. Contaminated drinking water, lack of proper sanitation services and poor personal hygiene contribute to the high incidence of water and food borne diseases such as diarrhoea, dysentery and typhoid. Statistics in the 1996 National Health Plan reveal that diarrhoea is the number one cause of morbidity and mortality in the country at the rate of 1610 deaths per 100,000 of the population. Furthermore, 2.9% of all deaths are caused by typhoid and the current low access to potable water and safe sanitation is an ideal recipe for the incidence of cholera and other similar epidemics. Two of the main reasons for the above situation are the lack of coordination in the water supply and sanitation sector and inadequate funding by the government.

Water resources availability in terms of quantity and quality is coming under increasing threat from the pressure induced by rapid population growth as well as runoff and point source pollutant laden discharges from mining, logging, agriculture, infrastructure development and industrial processing, entering surface and groundwater bodies. While existing regulatory controls are in place to minimise these impacts, better monitoring and compliance arrangements are required to regulate these activities. In order to overcome the constraints imposed by limited regulatory funding from the government, monitoring networks involving partnerships with private sector, NGOs and local landowners should be seriously pursued.

Due to its position at the intersection of the stable Australian plate and the mobile Pacific plate, PNG is geologically young and dynamic with high seismic and volcanic activity. Its northern portion forms a part of the so called “Pacific Ring of fire” which makes the country prone to volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, landslides and tsunamis. In addition, with one of the wettest climates in the world, floods occur annually with magnitudes differing from one year to another. Even with its very wet overall climate, the topography of the country is such that there are areas which experience distinct dry seasons where droughts can develop during extended dry seasons. Global warming has led to climate change and variability which have increased the country’s vulnerability to sea level rise, tropical storms, tidal surges and saline intrusion. Global warming has also intensified the impacts of the ENSO phenomenon in both extremes yielding more frequent and severe floods and droughts. Inadequate preparedness, adaptation and contingency planning have resulted in increasing damages and loss of life due to floods and amplified the misery associated with droughts. There is a need to improve flood and drought forecasting and expend more resources in hazard assessment and risk management by adopting precautionary and contingency measures in order to minimise damages, human suffering loss of life and fatalities.

In order to safeguard the availability of water with respect to quantity and quality to maintain ecological integrity, cater for natural and anthropogenic water uses as well as minimise impacts arising from floods, droughts and climate change, there is an urgent need to apply integrated water resources management involving all stakeholders and focusing on catchment units. Several institutional, legislative, operational, strategic, capacity, public consciousness and resource related barriers have been identified for appropriate treatment in order to achieve effective IWRM in PNG. These include the establishment of a national water committee, formulation of a national vision for water resources, development of a national water resources management policy, review and finalisation of a national water services policy, review of institutional mechanisms and capacity building in each of the thematic areas targeted in the Pacific RAP.

Furthermore, the current deficiencies with respect to water resources management, access to water supply and safe sanitation cannot be allowed to continue if the country is to achieve the corresponding targets set out under its Medium Term Development Strategy (MTDS) National Millennium Development Goal numbers six and seven on health and environmental sustainability respectively. In order to begin the process of systematically organising the sector, it is imperative that a National Water Committee is set up; comprising representatives from a wide cross-section of the society, to oversee a comprehensive sectoral review and devise a national vision for water resources management. This will then lay the foundation for appropriate legislative, policy, regulatory, institutional and capacity issues to be addressed.


See also

Papua New Guinea


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