Papua is one of Indonesia province comprising a majority part of the western half of New Guinea Island and nearby. The province originally covered the entire western half of New Guinea, but in 2003, the western portion of the province, on the Bird's Head Peninsula, was declared in Jakarta as separate province named West Irian Jaya. The legality of this separation has been disputed, as it appears to conflict with the conditions of the Special Autonomy status awarded to Papua in the year 2000. The status of West Irian Jaya province is not yet resolved as of early 2006.
Papua is the official Indonesian and internationally recognized name for the province. During the colonial era the region was known as Dutch New Guinea. The province was known as West Irian or Irian Barat from 1969 to 1973, and then renamed Irian Jaya ("Victorious Irian") by Soeharto. This was the official name until Papua was adopted in 2002. Today, natives of this province prefer to call themselves Papuans rather than Irianese. This may be due to etymology (variously identified as a real etymology or a folk etymology) the name of Irian, which stems from the acronym Ikut Republik Indonesia, Anti Nederland (join/follow with the Republic of Indonesia, rejecting The Netherlands). The name West Papua is used among Papuan separatists and usually refers to the whole of the Indonesian portion of New Guinea.
The capital of Papua province is Jayapura. Most of the population depends on subsistence farming, especially the cultivation of rice and maize. The main industries include copper (with the largest concentration of copper in the world at Tembagapura), palm oil, copra, maize, groundnuts, pepper, tuna, gold, oil, coal, and phosphates. It is mostly a mountainous and forested region, with the Maoke Mountain range rising to 5,029-m/16,499 ft at Jaya Peak. The population comprises Melanesians (original settlers of Western New Guinea), Papuans, Negritos, and Europeans. Indigenous animism prevails. The province declared independence from Indonesia, as West Papua, in June 2000. However, the president of Indonesia stated that the declaration was unrepresentative of true feeling in the province.
A central East-West mountain range dominates the geography of New Guinea, over 1600 km in total length. The western section is around 600 km long and 100 km across. Steep mountains 3000 to 4000 m and up to 5000 m high along the range ensure a steady supply of rain from the tropical atmosphere. The tree line is around 4000 m elevation and the tallest peaks are snowbound year round.
Both North and West of the central ranges the land remains mountainous mostly 1000 to 2000 m high covered by thick rain forest and a warm humid year round climate. The third major habitat feature is the southeast lowlands with extensive wetlands stretching for hundreds of kilometers.
Mamberamo River sometimes referred to the "Amazon of Papua" is the province's largest river, which winds through the northern part of the province. The result is a large area of lakes and rivers known as the Lakes Plains region. The famous Baliem Valley, home of the Dani people is a tableland 1600 m above sea level in the midst of the central mountain range; Jaya Peak, sometimes known by its former Dutch name Carstensz Pyramid, is a mist covered limestone mountain peak 5030 m above sea level.
|Information and pictures courtesy of Indonesia Tourism.