The Fly River Delta
September 2015: Flying into the island of Daru in the Gulf of Papua, I was in search of new subjects to photograph. For the past 3 years, I have visited the island on many occasions and have in fact compiled quite a number of photos of the place. This trip was not any more special than the previous ones but I thought that it would be good to capture a bird’s-eye view of the delta where all those photos were taken and thus provide a better context of the place. The sun was shining brightly as we smoothly glided into the island and, although I had to struggle a bit to get a good vantage point inside the cramped Dash 8, my lens hood hitting the smudgy window from time to time; I managed to click a few shots of the bountiful delta.
The Fly River is vital to the social, economic, and political life of Western Province. Aside from being a crucial source of food for the locals, the river’s deep and mysterious water allows boat access between Daru and other gulf areas and the inland communities. The boats, barges and dinghies that traverse these waters carry with them gold and other minerals from mines deep inland (see The Mighty Fly River), fuel and other supplies into the inland communities (see Daru Island 2), and agricultural produce out to Daru and other markets (see Daru Island 1).
Out in the gulf, the rich marine life, supported by organisms and minerals from the Fly, provide a bountiful food and aquatic resource to local fishermen and traders. Highly valued fish such as the barramundi (Asian sea bass) easily make their way to dinner tables in PNG and abroad. Prawns, lobsters and crabs provide abundant livelihood source for locals, especially the sea-faring Kiwai people whose villages dot the shorelines. The Daru wharf and airfield is directly connected to coastal and inland producers by the Fly River.
Sadly, this environmentally rich and diverse area also has its share of environmental problems. On top of these problems are the toxic wastes that continuously flow from inland mines and poison the river before flowing out into the river delta. Another strange phenomenon that coastline villages along near the delta have been experiencing in the past years is the seemingly rapid erosion of their shoreline, consuming entire villages and forcing entire communities to move further inland or resettle in other places. In a Kiwai village called Ture-ture, half of the villagers have relocated to a higher ground while the other half had decided to stand their ground against the advancing sea (see Ture-ture, The Vanishing Village) and hope that the waters of the gulf, their source of life for many generations, will spare them from mother nature’s brewing wrath. The tropical paradise is facing serious threats.