PNG environmentalists reject logging plans
By Freya Pinney
On August 12, the PNG government will consider a Timber Supply Agreement (TSA) proposal. Ursula Rakova, spokesperson for a 14-strong delegation from the Papua New Guinea National Alliance of Non-Government Organisations (NANGO) told the Students, Science and Sustainability conference in Sydney, July 20-24 "the TSA proposal is totally against all the principles of conservation, biodiversity, sustainable development, popular participation and the respect for landholder rights".
PNG has one of the four largest intact rainforests left on earth. In the name of development and under pressure to repay its debt to the World Bank, the PNG government has given the go-ahead to Asian logging companies which are currently destroying the forests at a rate of one football-field per day.
There is no current national forest plan as required under PNG's 1991 Forestry Act. The TSA proposal will remove current land-owners from participation in the timber industry; they will be used to rubber stamp agreements and timber permits.
PNG environmentalists are concerned that TSA will allow massive overcutting and provide no safeguards against clear felling. They are also worried that the proposal will set aside just 10% of PNG's forests for conservation and that it fails to set adequate guidelines for assessing conservation values.
The TSA would also alienate landholders from their land by allowing the government and foreign capital to buy the timber it for next to nothing. For example, one square metre of rainforest is worth around $200 to a logging company, and only $9 to the clan.
NANGO is concerned about the highly secretive manner in which the new proposals have been initiated and pushed by the PNG Forest Authority. According to Rakova "it is obvious that TSA's primary focus is revenue generation, not sustainable development of our resources".
She added that the revenue generated by the destruction of PNG's rainforests and the palm oil plantations which is used by the PNG government to repay World Bank debts, should be highlighted during the "50 years is Enough" campaign.
The conference called for a national day of action on September 1 in solidarity with the PNG campaign against the TSA. In Wollongong, there will be a speak out in the Mall on that day at 5pm.