Papua New Guinea’s Rainforests Doomed, Tax Breaks for Timber Mafia

Efforts to protect and conserve Papua New Guinea's (PNG) rainforests
are doomed to failure. It is reported in last week's Post Courier that
the industrial log industry – which is systematically destroying the
World's fourth largest rainforest expanse – is soon to get massive tax
breaks. The PNG logging mafia deserves to be disbanded and serve hard
prison time, not additional payments to destroy Papua New Guinea's
culture, society and environment. If current policies continue –
including welfare for loggers – PNG will certainly become largely
denuded of forests, have little alternative sources of income or
subsistence, and will face ecological collapse and social ruin as a
result of the government's forest policies.
While large rainforests – and their peoples, other species and
ecosystem functions – are endangered in much of the world, it is
particularly so in PNG. The Malaysian timber mafia has its tentacles
in virtually every orifice of government, and to some respect can be
said to be running the country. Corruption, much of it derived from
the timber industry, is epidemic and makes the country essentially
ungovernable. Logging that is out of control, inappropriately scaled,
and mostly for the benefit of foreign multi-nationals is devastating
PNG's forests and cultures.
Let us name names. Papua New Guinea government – as individuals do you
care about more than personal gain? Do you understand your country's
ecological heritage is being plundered? Without forests, how do you
intend to maintain your people's lives and livelihoods? Do you care
about your country's children and their future? Australia, why have
you backed off your strong position against illegal and unsustainable
logging in PNG? Could it be because you covet part of the logging
World Bank – having worked within the belly of the beast myself and
seeing the good intentions of many – I nonetheless have a complete
lack of faith in your ability to reconcile your economic goals with
being the lead agency in environmental finance and policy making in
PNG and elsewhere. Why do you insist on reforming commercial log
exports and refuse to transition the industry to eco-forestry
practices? What basis do you have in claiming industrial logging as
practiced in PNG can be reformed and made environmentally acceptable?
Do you have a stake in keeping the logs flowing?
Local conservation movement – why are you so fragmented and
territorial, and thus largely ineffective? What would it take to get
you to work together to provide a coherent alternative forest
conservation vision that has a chance to succeed? Are you as
interested in funds from the World Bank as you are in saving forests?
And international environmental groups have the most to answer for, as
they posture and pose with their token projects, showing how their
lame and unimaginative programs are “saving” PNG's rainforests.
Greenpeace – how much longer are you going to play footsie with the
World Bank, and channel the PNG forest conservation movement's energy
into apologist, reform efforts that continuously fail? Is there any
advancement in PNG conservation for which you do not claim credit?
WWF – still buying logs from industrial loggers and logging mangroves?
After millions of dollars of corporate money being wasted on top-down
conservation, are you ready to work with those that do not have the
cash but have a conservation ethic?
Most conservationists refuse to take on the ecological and social
legitimacy of the PNG industrial log export industry, which is
systematically ripping out and exporting raw logs at a net cost to the
country. There is only one series of steps adequate to tame the
logging beast and its apologists and reformers, and return PNG's
forests to their rightful place as permanent home and keeper for its
people and species. They are:
* Establish a Commission of Inquiry with broad discretionary power to
investigate all aspects of the logging industry and make necessary
recommendations, including possible criminal prosecutions.
* Establish a timeline to permanently end industrial log exports from
PNG, and a process to transition the industry to small and medium
scaled community and certified forest management.
* The PNG government must develop and implement forest policy,
legislation, regulations and guidelines to establish an entirely new
forest sector based upon ecologically sustainable, small to medium
scale, local community-based eco-forestry management.
* End donor subsidies to industrial log export. Redirect donor funds
to transitioning the industry to environmental and social
sustainability through support for community based management and
protection, cushioning the economic impact upon the government and
landowners of doing so.
Mi tingim bus bilong PNG bai go pinis no lewa bilong mi bruk pinis. Em
taim long rausim ol stilman, na ol papagraun yet lukautim bus na
bihaintaim bilong ol asples.

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1 Response

  1. vince freedman says:

    Having spent 35 years working in PNG I must agree completely with your comments. The matter does not get any exposure in England and efforts should be made to ensure that this problem is also aired here as a change from the continual hand wringing – quite justified – about the Amazon!
    Good Luck

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