Volcanic eruptions, coastal erosion, landslides and flooding - is Madang the disaster capital of PNG?

Apr 3, 2018

Part of Madang’s coastline suffering from large-scale erosion. ©Nick, Turner/UNDP (PNG)

Madang, 3rd April 2018 - “Unfortunately, we have it all. Madang is a province that is prone to many types of disasters. Marine disasters such as coastal erosion and rising sea levels, landslides and flooding, and volcanic eruptions on Manam Island.”

The Provincial Disaster Director of the Provincial Disaster Centre in Madang Rudolf Mongallee is standing on the coastline of Jais Aben, around a 30-minute drive from Madang’s town centre, explaining that his province in Papua New Guinea is one of the more disaster-prone in a country already known for its high prevalence to natural disasters.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in PNG is working towards putting risk reduction and disaster preparedness on the national agenda.

UNDP is partnering with the National Disaster Centre (NDC) - Government’s focal agency for coordinating Disaster Risk Management (DRM) in the country and their provincial counterparts to ensure that the nation’s development gains are sustained, despite an ever-changing and often brutal environmental landscape.

Mr Mongallee is proud of the work he has been able to achieve over the past four years since joining the Madang Provincial Disaster Centre.

However, he knows that there remains a long road ahead in ensuring that the population throughout the province has the right skills and knowledge to prepare for future disasters.

 “We’ve erected five billboards around Madang as part of another UNDP project on climate adaption to educate the population on climate change awareness, as we’ve that found people’s knowledge of the issues associated with climate change and disaster is limited.

“We’re planning to elaborate our disaster management plan and standard operating procedures, so that we have a good understanding of roles and responsibilities when it comes to disaster response and recovery,” adds Mr Mongallee.

“We want people to be better prepared to face future disasters, as we’re seeing significant change to the environment here in the province,” he said.

Globally, UN Member states in 192 countries, including PNG, have agreed on the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, which sets targets for substantially reducing disaster risk and increasing resilience of people by 2030. This aligns with the global push to address Sustainable Development Goal 13: Climate Action by 2030.
UNDP’s National Disaster Risk Management Project Manager with UNDP in PNG Michael Sembonombo said their work is assessing historical disaster impacts, current trends and weather patterns, with a view towards better planning and preparedness of communities.

“2015 and 2016 saw Papua New Guinea go through a prolonged El Niño period which affected 2.4 million people, and part of the work we are currently doing now is still linked to El Niño,” he said.

“We’re working with technical agencies in PNG to conduct multi-hazard risk assessments, which will lead into the formulation of a long-term disaster risk reduction plans and further resilience building activities. This type of multi-hazard risk assessment approach has not been carried out before in the five pilot provinces where we are working. It is important to have this holistic approach to hazards, in order to identify risk reduction priorities and make proper use of scarce resources available at the sub-national level,” he adds.

UNDP is working in Western Highlands, Simbu, Madang, Central and ARoB. These are considered as pilot provinces, and once various disaster risk reduction methodologies are applied, UNDP and the NDC hope this work can then be further replicated in other provinces around the country.

Mr Mongallee believes that Madang province is indebted to UNDP in PNG for the assistance that has been provided to the people of his province.

“Enhancing capacities and teaching communities to be resilient is a big part of our work. Without help from UNDP, I doubt that a lot of the work we are doing here would exist,” he said. 

Funding for the UNDP DRM project in Madang is kindly provided by Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Acting Director of the Madang Provincial Centre, Rudolf Mongallee. ©Nick, Turner/UNDP (PNG)

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