Western Province PNG
Papua New Guinea is located within the South West of the Pacific Ocean, just few kilometres above the country of Australia. Officially known as the Independent State of Papua New Guinea, the country has over 800 languages and hundreds of ethnic groups that make up its 22 provinces. PNG gained independence on the 16th of September 1975 (formally a Territory of Australia post the Second World War). Most of the land in PNG is customary owned and the people enjoy a rich and diverse culture, living by traditions tied to the land. The country’s geographical terrain is rugged and variable with dense forests, peaked mountains and many rivers flowing to vast floodplains and coastal beaches with a myriad of islands offshore.
Western Province & the Fly River
Western Province is the largest province in Papua New Guinea in terms of land mass. It covers 99, 300 square kilometres or one fifth of the country’s total land mass. There are approximately 200,000 people sparsely spread throughout the province. While the northern region of the province is generally mountainous, its lowlands are flat and mostly covered in sub littoral waterways and mangrove swamps fed by hundreds of tributaries flowing into the Strickland and Fly rivers and the iconic Lake Murray. Remote villages in this part of the province are scattered far and wide with their only means of accessibility being by boat or aircraft. The three official political regions of Western Province are the North Fly, Middle Fly and South Fly.
The Fly River is the second longest river in Papua New Guinea after the Sepik River. The river is 1,050 kilometres long (650 miles) and meanders through the province before flowing into the Gulf of Papua. In the upper reaches of the North Fly the river creates small valleys through the rugged mountains flowing quickly into the Middle Fly, a region characterised by wide floodplains and numerous tributaries and swamps. In the upstream sections the vegetation includes open rainforest, swamp forest and sago while the lower reaches have traditionally experienced flooding and support extensive areas of swamp grasses. The South Fly region has tidal influence and supports extensive mangroves in the lower reaches of a massive delta that spans more than 90 kilometres at the mouth.
The river is a lifeline for the many thousands of people that live along its banks and tributaries, not only in terms of accessibility but also food security, reliant on the many fish and prawn species abundant in the river as a regular protein source. The Fly River is also the main route for mining supplies and distribution of government services via a growing fleet of commercial vessels.