Rising bill of PNG’s El Nino disaster

EL Nino battered Papua New Guinea is bracing for more serious onslaught with predictions for worse in months ahead and into next year. The El Nino extreme weather has peaked across the country resulting in lower than normal rainfall, with rivers and dams drying up causing water shortages, lower crop yields, food shortages and big impacts on the country’s all important mining industry.

Almost two million people have been affected by this extreme weather, representing more than a quarter of PNG’s 7.8 million population. Of the number affected,1,303,000 people are classed as being in the most at risk, category four, drought. Those affected severely were mainly from Highlands part of the country who have faced months without food from local gardens after being destroyed by frosts, schools and health institutions shutting down due to lack of water, destruction of wild fires on properties and health related diseases arising from the dry weather conditions increasingly rife.

It has also forced the closer of Ok Tedi Mining Limited (OTML) gold and copper mine in Western Province, as a result of low water levels on the Fly River, which is used to transport copper concentrate to Port Moresby. The temporary closure of the Ok Tedi mine could potentially last for up to a year with the loss of mining income could be as much as K2.77 billion (US$974,046m) a year.

The PNG Government has scrambled to cobble together K5 million (US$1.8m) to help those affected but the PNG Disaster Centre has indicated more money would be needed as the weather conditions intensified. The National Weather Service said the country should brace itself for the El Nino which could last until the middle of 2016.

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