/ 18 Sep 2019
The Papua Atlas: New tool tracks development on remote island, as-it-happens
Scientists hope for good environmental decision-making as the Trans-Papua Highway takes shape
The Papua region, which makes up the Indonesian half of the island of New Guinea, has often been seen as a ‘last frontier’. Rugged, wild and resource-rich, the island holds one of the world’s largest and most intact tropical rainforests, which is a ‘hot-spot’ for a wide range of unique and threatened flora and fauna. Its indigenous communities are famously diverse, too, with over 800 languages spoken and a number of cultures that are still relatively untouched by globalization.
Compared to the rest of Indonesia, the Papua region has little infrastructure and high levels of poverty: currently, 53 percent of the population don’t have access to electricity, and over a quarter of residents live below the poverty line – more than twice the national average of 10.7 percent.
But thanks to recent government efforts to accelerate infrastructure development and boost connectivity in the region, Papua is poised on the brink of some pretty major developments, which could change its long-held reputation for remoteness and inaccessibility – and which may have major impacts for its communities and ecosystems.