Geography and Environment of Papua New Guinea

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Papua New Guinea is located in Oceania, group of islands including the eastern half of the island of New Guinea between the Coral Sea and the South Pacific Ocean, east of Indonesia. Its geographic coordinates are: 6 00 S, 147 00 E. Papua New Guinea shares island of New Guinea with Indonesia; generally east-west trending highlands break up New Guinea into diverse ecoregions; one of world's largest swamps along southwest coast

Area: total: 462,840 square kilometers; land: 452,860 square kilometers; water: 9,980 square kilometers; ranking compared to other countries in the world: 57. It is about slightly larger than California. [Source: CIA World Factbook 2023]

Land Boundaries: total: 824 kilometers, with one country (Indonesia). Coastline: 5,152 kilometers; Maritime claims: territorial sea: 12 nautical miles; continental shelf: 200-m depth or to the depth of exploitation; exclusive fishing zone: 200 nautical miles measured from claimed archipelagic baselines.

Land Use: agricultural land: 2.6 percent (2018 estimate). Arable Land: 0.7 percent (2018 estimate); permanent crops: 1.5 percent (2018 estimate); permanent pasture: 0.4 percent (2018 estimate); forest: 63.1 percent (2018 estimate); other: 34.3 percent (2018 estimate). Irrigated Land: 0 square kilometers (2022)

Population Distribution: population concentrated in the highlands and eastern coastal areas on the island of New Guinea; predominantly a rural distribution with only about one-fifth of the population residing in urban areas

Climate: tropical; northwest monsoon (December to March), southeast monsoon (May to October); slight seasonal temperature variation.

Geographical Features of Papua New Guinea

Topography: mostly mountains with coastal lowlands and rolling foothills. Elevation: highest point: Mount Wilhelm 4,509 meters; lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 meters; mean elevation: 667 meters.

Major Rivers (by length in kilometers): Sepik river source and mouth (shared with Indonesia): 1,126 kilometers; Fly river source and mouth (shared with Indonesia): 1,050 kilometers.. [Source: CIA World Factbook 2023]

Papua New Guinea is one of the countries along the Ring of Fire, a belt of active volcanoes and earthquake epicenters bordering the Pacific Ocean; up to 90 percent of the world's earthquakes and some 75 percent of the world's volcanoes occur within the Ring of Fire Natural Hazards: active volcanism; the country is subject to frequent and sometimes severe earthquakes; mud slides; tsunamis

Volcanoes: severe volcanic activity; Ulawun (2,334 meters), one of Papua New Guinea's potentially most dangerous volcanoes, has been deemed a Decade Volcano by the International Association of Volcanology and Chemistry of the Earth's Interior, worthy of study due to its explosive history and close proximity to human populations; Rabaul (688 meters) destroyed the city of Rabaul in 1937 and 1994; Lamington erupted in 1951 killing 3,000 people; Manam's 2004 eruption forced the island's abandonment; other historically active volcanoes include Bam, Bagana, Garbuna, Karkar, Langila, Lolobau, Long Island, Pago, St. Andrew Strait, Victory, and Waiowa.

Environment Issues in Papua New Guinea

Environmental Issues: rain forest loss as a result of growing commercial demand for tropical timber; unsustainable logging practices result in soil erosion, water quality degredation, and loss of habitat and biodiversity; large-scale mining projects cause adverse impacts on forests and water quality (discharge of heavy metals, cyanide, and acids into rivers); severe drought; inappropriate farming practices accelerate land degradion (soil erosion, siltation, loss of soil fertility); destructive fishing practices and coastal pollution due to run-off from land-based activities and oil spills

Carbon Dioxide Emissions: 6.491 million metric tonnes of CO2 (2019 estimate)
from coal and metallurgical coke: 0 metric tonnes of CO2 (2019 estimate)
from petroleum and other liquids: 5.965 million metric tonnes of CO2 (2019 estimate)
from consumed natural gas: 526,000 metric tonnes of CO2 (2019 estimate); ranking compared to other countries in the world: emissions 128.
[Source: CIA World Factbook, 2023]

Air Pollution: particulate matter emissions: 10.91 micrograms per cubic meter (2016 estimate); carbon dioxide emissions: 7.54 megatons (2016 estimate); methane emissions: 11.05 megatons (2020 estimate). [Source: CIA World Factbook 2023]

Waste and Recycling: municipal solid waste generated annually: 1 million tons (2014 estimate)
municipal solid waste recycled annually: 20,000 tons (2016 estimate)
percent of municipal solid waste recycled: 2 percent (2016 estimate)

Total Water Withdrawal: municipal: 220 million cubic meters (2020 estimate); industrial: 170 million cubic meters (2020 estimate); agricultural: 1 million cubic meters (2020 estimate); Total Renewable Water Resources: 801 billion cubic meters (2020 estimate). [Source: CIA World Factbook 2023]

Revenue from Forest Resources: 2.08 percent of GDP (2018 estimate); ranking compared to other countries in the world: 33. [Source: CIA World Factbook 2023]

International Environmental Agreements: party to: Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Climate Change-Paris Agreement, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping-London Convention, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 2006, Wetlands. Signed, but not ratified: Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban.

Image Sources:

Text Sources: CIA World Factbook, 2023; “Encyclopedia of World Cultures, Volume 2: Oceania,” edited by Terence E. Hays, 1991, Wikipedia, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

Last updated August 2023

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