Papua New Guinea’s forest covers are reportedly decreasing, an issue caused by domestic economic interests.
Recent reports from the National Forest Authority have indicated that PNG’s forest covers is about 64 per cent, but that percentage is dropping at a much faster rate.
Neville Howcroft, a veteran tree breeder, has worked in the country for more than 40 years said the work of mining and logging and oil palm in recent years are greedy, as more trees are being destroyed then they are being replanted.
“ They are too greedy and it has been out of hand. We need to look at doing more replanting than and getting them to be part of the replanting system”, said Mr. Howcroft.
In Papua New Guinea, a vast landmass of untouched forests is being continuously cleared to make way for new economic developments.
Provinces like East New Britain are reportedly losing more forests covers, most of it being taken over by oil palm, a lucrative business that is growing in popularity in most rural parts of the province.
One such is the Pomio District, a rural district that holds much of the percentage of forest covers in the province.
In the last three years, landowners in Pomio have allowed large foreign companies to enter their traditional land to develop the crop on a larger scale.
The reason is, the oil palm developers are providing better roads, schools and health services, which the PNG government has failed to provide in many years.
While many considered this a positive move taken by the landowners, their action came with consequences.
Some of the conditions came under the controversial Special Agreement Business Lease (SABL) that gave way to more issues, relating to unmonitored logging activities, and in some instances, gave amnesty to the companies destroying the forests.
“Some of the things about logging I am not impressed with. I think there is a great scope of forestry, working on the repair work and also developing a good stewardship when it comes to looking after the environment,” Mr. Howcroft said.
At the other end of the country, on Missima Island, in the Milne Bay province, a reforestation exercise begun on the island in 2004.
New trees were planted with an aim of rebuilding the island’s vegetation that were destroyed during mining operations in the mid 1990’s
“These trees you see, it was replanted by the mining company who came back to rehabilitate the area. Immediately after mining activities ended here, there were no trees. There was only bear soil”, said Frank Moses, a clan leader on Missima Island.
The PNG government, through its National Forest Authority have pledged to plant more new trees that were destroyed by intensive economic activities in most of the resourceful areas of the country.
Under its reforestation programs, the National Forest Authority hopes to regain more than 50 precent of forests by the year 2050, a goal set by the PNG government in its Vision 2050 plan.
The impacts of deforestation continue to plague other parts of the world such as in the Amazon, where at least 8 million hectares of forest are levelled each year for logging and other economic prospects.
Most environmentalists have used the Amazon and other parts of the Asia as lessons for Papua New Guinea to learn from and avoid unnecessary destructions to its forests.