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Forests of Papua New Guinea

Solutions for Papua New Guinean forests

As with many environmental issues a major step is education. Many New Guineans see that logging companies will provide economic stability for them and welcome the jobs provided. However, there is some movement away from this belief, with many people realising the implications of forest destruction and there have been protests about logging and mining in PNG. There is also an increase in non-government groups (NGOs) lobbying against the destruction of rain forests. These are managing to operate outside the volatile government structure and build projects such as:

  • Eco-timber
  • Small-scale forestry
  • Training in sustainable forestry
  • Awareness patrols in remote areas.

Non-government organisations in Japan are also working to educate their people on the use of wood-derived products. As a major buyer of wood from PNG, these organisations are also very important.

Political support from other countries is needed to overcome the corrupt industry involving bribed officials and “blind” policing that is PNG’s logging economy. Groups need to come together to build long-term programmes and approaches to resource management.

It has been shown that logging provides money for communities and thus economic support will also be required, particularly for those NGOs who are not supported by their own government. The PNG economy needs to sustain itself, so alternatives must be built upon in order that the economy can survive. In order that New Guineans can live in an economy not reliant on logging, an infrastructure must be put in place to accommodate their needs for housing, clean water, food supply, waste disposal, health care and recreational facilities.

Some alternatives to logging as an industry are:

Eco-forestry – A more environmentally friendly way to manage the timber industry using portable sawmills. This has already been suggested by several environmental organisations but it is difficult to manage in the volatile political climate.

Tapa Cloth - This is made by soaking and pounding the inner layer of the bark of the paper mulberry tree. Traditional designs are painted on to decorate the cloth. A project to display this cloth was co-sponsored by Greenpeace Pacific, as part of the promotion of traditional art forms that can be used to raise an income through the wise use of forest resources.

Traditional Craft works and Galip Nuts - These could be exported to international markets. This will mean landowners can make use of the trees as an asset on their land without destroying them.

Another way for an economically unstable country such as PNG to increase domestic savings is through tourism. Correctly managed, it can bring increased prosperity and contribute to the protection of the local environment. Papua New Guinea has possibilities as an ecotourism destination – hence the natural environment of the country must be preserved and not destroyed.

Preservation of PNG’s rain forests can only happen if money from logging is derived from other sources. These alternative industries will not wholly sustain the economy, and support in debt relief is essential from other governments, the IMF and World Bank.

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