Western Province is the largest province in PNG, covering one-fifth of PNG’s land mass at 97,300 square kilometres, yet the population only sits at 201,351 (2011 Census). This is primarily due to a traditional ‘hunter and gatherer’ lifestyle across an undulating and dense tropical landscape, and a current day lack of service centres and hubs, which has resulted in villages being widely spread out across the province.
The lifeline of Western Province is the Fly River as the majority of its residents live along or near its banks and tributaries. The river runs over 1,050 kilometres (650 miles) long and meanders through the province from north to south where it ends at the Gulf of Papua through a mouth in excess of 90 kilometres in width. This river also defines the various districts within Western Province, dependent upon their proximity to and along the Fly River.
The Fly River is the main route for mining supplies and distribution of government services via a growing fleet of private and commercial vessels.