Disaster Risk Management project to assist Rigo District

Nov 2, 2017

Rigo locals have now taken to crossing the Kempwells River by boat after bridges were washed away by recent flooding. Image: ©Nick, Turner/UNDP

Rigo, October 2017 - Papua New Guinea is prone to regular natural disasters. The country faces a steady threat from a wide range of hazards including floods, cyclones, landslides, drought and earthquakes, among others.

To ensure the country can rapidly and successfully recover from a natural disaster the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Papua New Guinea (PNG) has partnered with the National Disaster Centre to ensure that communities are better prepared for future occurrences of both natural and man-made disasters.

UNDP PNG’s Disaster Risk Management (DRM) project will work directly with Provincial Disaster Office’s located in the provinces of Central, Bougainville, Western Highlands, Simbu and Madang to provide technical advice and expertise.

Within each of these five provinces a selected district will be chosen as a focal point for the DRM project’s multi-hazard risk assessment.

The multi hazard-risk assessment will lead to the development of risk profiles, risk baselines and a Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) plan for each of the selected provinces. This in turn will lead to building community resilience through long-term risk reduction work involving all actors undertaking DRR work in Papua New Guinea.

UNDP National DRM Project Manager, Michael Sembonombo, said that for Central province (along the southern coast of the country), the district of Rigo has been selected due to its high prevalence of risks associated with both sea level rise and inland flooding.

“The aim of our work is to increase capacity with our partner, the National Disaster Centre, and better inform all actors doing disaster risk reduction work,” Mr Sembonombo said.

“The Central Province Disaster Advisor has selected Rigo as the most at-risk district in the province, so therefore we will focus our multi-hazard risk assessment work here,” he adds.

The low-lying village of Niuiruka is one such area that has recently been affected by heavy rain and inland flooding.

The village received no rain during a torrid El Niño weather pattern that hit PNG during 2015 and early 2016, which saw those living in Niuiruka planting food gardens where the Kemp Wards River would usually flow.

Now, with the dry period over and significant rain causing a rise in river levels, the community has seen its gardens washed away and water levels having now risen to dangerous levels.

“Just three weeks ago we were standing about eight metres below where we are now. That is how much the river has risen,” said Kone Burana, a representative from the Rigo District Administration.

Mr Burana said that with technical assistance being provided by UNDP via the DRM project, he hopes that Rigo district and its residents can be better prepared for future disasters.

“How can we prevent this from happening further is the question we are asking ourselves, and that is where we need UNDP and their technical assistance,” Mr Burana states.

Moving forward, UNDP’s Mr Sembonombo said that the formulation of a long-term disaster risk reduction plan is the end goal.

“What we will do is look at the disaster risk reduction plans and then following this look into long-term community resilience building. That is where we can most effective,” he said.

This project has been made possible with support from the Australian Government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Click here to find out more. 

Rigo District Administration Representative Kone Burana and UNDP DRM National Project Manager Michael Sembonombo on site at Niuiruka village. Image: ©Nick, Turner/UNDP

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