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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Illegal logging in Namatanai


UPNG Journalism Student

CLEAN, fresh water for the people of Pire village in the east-coast of Namatanai District in the New Ireland Province is now a thing of the past as the main river, Taho Dahana, which the people rely on for fishing, washing, laundry and most importantly drinking, has been polluted by logging operation in the area.

FEFLO PNG Logging camp, Pire Village

This has raised a lot of concern by the people in the community including the traditional landowners of the areas that are being logged, thus, has resulted in a village Planning Committee (Pire Village Planning Committee) being formed, to address the people’s grievances against the Logging Company FEFLO PNG.

Landowner and member of the Pire Village Planning Committee (PVPC), Mr. Elias Towarkia said the committee had recently written to the Papua New Guinea Forest Authority (PNGFA), outlining their concerns, and have requested for a team of Forestry officers in Port Moresby to immediately visit the logging site, thus carryout investigations into the people’s concerns and at the same time assess the damages done to the environment- the trees, forest and especially the river.

“We want a complete ‘Stop Notice’ to be served by PNGFA to FEFLO PNG to cease harvesting logs in the area and leave immediately, as the people believe that many Environmental and Forestry Laws have been breached by the company since it commenced operation in the area mid this year.

“Trees have been logged right next to the river, and oil spills into the river tributaries has caused the river to be unsafe, thus people are now looking for clean drinking water,” said Towarkia.

He said that there was no proper consultation with all landowners or clan members, and no community awareness was carried out by the logging company, to make people aware of the harvesting of logs on their land, as well as the advantages and disadvantages of the type of logging that would take place in the area. Under-sized logs have been harvested, and as a result, many rejected logs are lying everywhere, while some are being buried beside river tributaries.

“Many landowners claim they have been pursued privately, especially at night by Liaison Officers on behalf of FEFLO PNG, to force them into signing the Agreement to harvest logs on their customary land which the people did not understand. FEFLO PNG and local logging company BASOMA HOLDINGS Ltd are working with a handful of selfish, greedy landowners believed to have been bribed and manipulated by the company, into agreeing into their demands to harvest logs on our land,” he said.

Towarkia said sacred land belonging to the Nakela clan, who are the customary landowners, has been destroyed by machines operating on the land. The ancestral burial site and customary land was completely dug up and bulldozed by the logging company.

He said that the harvesting of forbidden trees such as Rosewood and Kwila by FEFLO PNG including some so-called “Directors”, has resulted in the illegal shipment of these precious woods overseas, separately in containers for their own benefit.

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