Papua New Guinea Geography and Population

Papua New Guinea – geography

In New Guinea there is to the south lowlands that are drained by the Fly River and other rivers. Geologically and landscape-wise, the lowlands are a continuation of the Australian Plate. Further north is a central highland, which at its widest point includes parallel mountain ranges and fertile valleys, and which to the east merges into the hard-to-reach mountain range Owen Stanley Range. The highest mountain is Mt. Wilhelm and Bismarck Range (4509 m). North of the central highlands there is a burial depression, which is drained by the rivers Sepik, Ramu and Markham, and on the north coast mountains with heights of up to approximately 4000 m. In the sea off the north coast of New Guinea, the Solomon Plate dives (subduction), while forming a deep-sea tomb. The dive is accompanied by strong volcanic activity on New Britain and Bougainville. Immediately north of New Guinea, peaks of active volcanoes form a strip of islands, and east of the main island are some islands, which geologically are partly a continuation of the mountains of New Guinea, partly coral islands.

Papua New Guinea is located just south of the equator, and except in the mountains, the climate is tropical everywhere. Frost can occur from approximately 2100 m altitude. It rains all year round, but the amount of precipitation varies with the location in relation to the NW monsoon and the SE trade route. At Port Moresby, the SE trade wind blows from June to October parallel to the coast, and during these months there is dry season. The natural plant growth here is tropical savannah with eucalyptus trees, whereas the large lowland areas with year-round rainfall are overgrown with tropical rainforest. From 900 m until approximately 3700 m there are mountain forests.

Wildlife is varied with many endemic species. Since New Guinea until for approximately 10,000 years ago was part of the Australian Continent, there are great similarities between the wildlife of the two countries (wooden kangaroos, anteaters, etc.); the country is especially known for its colorful paradise bird species. The insects are represented by extremely large species, including the world’s largest butterfly with a wingspan of 28 cm.

In most of the country, the soil is heavily leached and thus acidic and barren. However, the central highlands, the island of Bougainville and the Gazelle Peninsula in New Britain have fertile volcanic soils where coconut, cocoa and oil palms are grown.

Population and occupation

The population grows by approximately 2.3% per year. The population is very unevenly distributed. Areas of volcanic rocks are densely populated, while there is a small population density in mountainous areas with heavily leached soils and in the swampy lowland areas. Not less than 85% of its population, but many people move to Lae and especially to the capital Port Moresby, which now houses nearly 1/2 million. residents, of which approximately 40% in slums.

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The population consists of numerous ethnic groups, which can be explained by the difficult terrain, where peoples for millennia have lived in isolation in mountain valleys or swamp forests, while their mutual contact has been predominantly of a hostile nature. Ritual cannibalism in PREVIOUS people have in the 1990’s attracted special attention, as research in the local Kuru disease led to discoveries about the cattle disease BSE and other prion diseases.

The number of foreigners has never been large; in 1997 there were approximately 24,000, including many Australians.

Agriculture employs approximately 75% of the population and contributes 27% of GDP; only 1% of the area is cultivated. Crops vary with natural conditions, and tropical tuberous plants (sweet potatoes, yams, cassava, etc.) and bananas are the main food crops. In the highlands, sweet potatoes are the dominant crop. Frost damage and drought in the highlands can cause the harvest to fail, and the population’s supply of food becomes in the worst cases so critical that emergency supplies become necessary. In swampy lowland areas, sago is from wild-growing sago palmsremains an important staple food. Until 1950, copra and rubber were largely the only crops exported, but in the lowlands people have now switched to growing crops such as cocoa and oil palms, while in the highlands they focus on coffee, tea and pyrethrum (for the production of insecticides).).

The fishery is of great importance to the local coastal population, but there is also significant commercial fishing for tuna in the waters around New Britain, and in Papua Bay fishing for barramundi, shrimp and lobster.

Forestry. Over 70% of Papua New Guinea is covered by forest, and the demand for tropical woods has increased logging. However, as a large part of the rainforest is remote, there will also be a lot of rainforest in the country in the future. The largest felling takes place in New Britain, where the rainforest is threatened in many places. With EU support, projects have now been started that make it possible for a village’s residents to acquire transportable sawmills so that they can make better use of the forest’s products.

Mining. In the 1920’s, gold was found at Bulolo in the central highlands. The gold washing took place on large floating barges, the individual parts of which had been flown there. Later, copper ore and gold were mined in large open pit mines at Panguna on the island of Bougainville and at Ok Tedi and Porgera in the Central Highlands. In several places, mining takes place in conflict with the local communities, both in terms of ownership of the land and due to pollution from the companies. In the 1990’s, oil began to be extracted in the lowlands of the Fly River. Contrary to expectations, however, no new profitable oil fields were found, and in 1996-2001 oil production fell by half.

The industry is of limited scope and especially linked to the products of agriculture and forestry as well as mining. The rest of the industrial production is aimed at the domestic market, but is hampered by the relatively modest purchasing power of the population. In total, the industry only contributes approximately 9% of GDP. The production of consumer goods for the domestic market takes place mainly in Lae and Port Moresby.

Trade. Products from mining make up approximately 3/4 of the export; in addition, timber, coffee, copra and palm oil. The main trading partners are Australia and Japan.


Hard-to-reach mountains and lowlands with many rivers make it difficult and expensive to build roads, and the country has no railways. In 1967, the construction of the Highland Highway between the port city of Lae and Mt. The garden in the central highlands. No road has yet been built from the north to the south coast of the country, so almost all passenger traffic between the capital Port Moresby and the rest of the country must take place by plane.