Tropical Rainforest Exploitation Case Study: Papua New Guinea
|Kiunga-Aiambak road project
Location of the case study
Papua New Guinea (PNG) possesses one of the planet's largest remaining tropical rainforest. At least seventy-five percent of its original forest cover is still standing, occupying vast, biologically rich tracts over 100,000 square miles in all. Its forests provide the habitat for about 200 species of mammals, 20,000 species of plants, 1,500 species of trees and 750 species of birds, half of which are endemic to the island. It has been estimated that between 5 and 7% of the known species in the world live in PNG. Rare plants and animals like the largest orchid, the largest butterfly, the longest lizard, the largest pigeon and the smallest parrot ever registered live in these forests.
The forests also constitute the home of the indigenous peoples, the Maisin. For the Maisin, forests provide everything from food and medicinal plants, to materials for houses, canoes and tools. Under the Papua New Guinea constitution, the Maisin are the legal owners of their traditional lands. But these forests and forest peoples are under threat due to large-scale logging activities and oil palm plantations. Almost the entire production of timber is export-oriented, with unprocessed logs exported to China for processing.
|Management issues involved
|Timber extraction e.g. Kiunga-Aiambak road project located in previously intact rainforests in Papua New Guinea’s remote Western Province.
|Soil erosion on steep slopes
Loss of biodiversity
Diseases spread amongst indigenous Maisin population through contact with the timber cutters
Increase in viral diseases and malaria, because of the ecological changes deforestation causes
Loss of game animals
Loss of clean water supply through sedimentation
|PNG Government: who sold logging rights and
helped finance the project
Transnationals and their shareholders: Malaysian company bought logging rights
Consumers in MEDCs who want cheap plywood and furniture
|Landowners: not consulted and paid
very little in compensation for the loss of their cocoa smallholdings.
Environmental groups: e.g. Greenpeace
Australian Government: Australia lies too close to Papua New Guinea to be isolated from its social problems
Indigenous population who object to the logging companies illegally taking over their land and the cultural, social and financial problems that followed
independent PNG Forestry Review Team (appointed by the World Bank) released a
damning audit of the project in October 2000. The results confirmed:
• The holder of the Timber Authority claims to be a landowner company but is actually 50% foreign owned.
• There is insufficient landowner consultation on the project.
• The logging contractor Concord Pacific Ltd continues to pay less royalty than the legally mandated rate.
• Landowners have been harassed and threatened with firearms by loggers and by police.
|Ease of access resulting from the incursion of a logging road has resulted in the complete loss of forest cover and subsequent soil erosion
|The effects of forest clearance on water quality
Dire predictions for Papua New Guinea's future
An Australian research team says Papua New Guinea is
sinking into chaos and poverty.
12/03/2003 09:52:53 | ABC Radio Australia News
Further reading on the role of China in the destruction of the tropical forests of Southeast Asia including Papua New Guinea: Forests in Southeast Asia Fall to China