A lush rainforest in Papua New Guinea.
The accessible forests of Papua New Guinea are likely
to be logged or disappear in the next decade or two, according to a
leading international team of scientists.
In an article in the journal Nature this week, the
scientists say that weak governance in Papua New Guinea is allowing
foreign logging companies to over-exploit the country’s native forests.
“Most accessible forests in Papua New Guinea are being
seriously over-exploited,” said lead author Professor William Laurance
of James Cook University in Cairns, Australia. “The rate of logging is
“Papua New Guinea has some of the world’s most
biologically and culturally rich forests, and they’re vanishing before
our eyes,” he said.
Titus Kakul, a scientist from Papua New Guinea also
based at James Cook University, said it was almost impossible to control
the foreign logging companies.
“Corruption plays a big role—it often defeats efforts to manage forests sustainably,” he said.
Timber in Papua New Guinea is mostly cut by Malaysian
logging corporations and then exported as raw logs to China. There, it
is made into furniture and other wood products and then exported around
“Despite all the logging, Papua New Guinea isn’t
getting enough financial benefit,” said Rod Keenan of the University of
Melbourne, Australia. “Instead of shipping raw logs to China they
should be exporting more in products like sawn timber, plywood and
furniture. This will create much more employment, training and
value-adding for the country.”
“There also needs to be more support for community forestry,” said Keenan.
Environmental prospects in Papua New Guinea are
probably worsening, say the authors. In May, the country’s parliament
changed land-rights protections for indigenous groups, making it more
difficult for them to sue offending corporations for environmental
And the government has frozen proposals for 120 new
conservation areas to avoid conflicts with loggers and other resource
“These are serious mistakes,” said co-author Navjot
Sodhi at the National University of Singapore. “Traditional land-rights
protections should be reinstated, and a big push is needed to improve
forest governance and slow rampant logging.”
The authors emphasize that international carbon
finance could help Papua New Guinea improve its forest management.
According to some estimates, the country could gain up to $500 million
annually in payments from industrial nations designed to slow forest
loss and reduce harmful greenhouse gases.
“We’re clinging to this hope because right now it looks like a tragedy in the making,” said William Laurance.
Original news release can be found here.