Illegal Loggers Clearing PNG's Forests, Report Says
JAKARTA Illegal logging is destroying large areas of forest in Papua New Guinea despite a government crackdown and policies that regulate the practice, global environmental group Forest Trends said in a report on Tuesday.
The group said illegal felling of timber is feeding an appetite for wood in the West and Asia at the expense of local people whose cultures and livelihoods are closely linked to forests.
Environmentalists have long said widespread industrial logging in Papua New Guinea, which lies to the north of Australia, is stripping the region of its rainforests, among the richest tropical forests in the world.
Some environmentalists estimate more than 250,000 hectares (625,000 acres) of virgin forest are destroyed each year in Papua New Guinea, most of which is still covered by rainforests.
Forest Trends said its surveys conducted over a five-year-period showed most commercial forestry operations in Papua New Guinea were illegal and ecologically unsustainable.
It said 14 logging projects covering 3.17 million hectares were operating unlawfully in the region. In 2004, these operations produced 1.3 million cubic metres of logs with an export value of $70 million.
"While the PNG government and its regulatory institutions have all the necessary policies, laws and regulations to ensure that sustainable timber production can be achieved, these laws are not being enforced," Forest Trends said in a statement.
"Industry is allowed to ignore PNG laws and, in fact, gains preferential treatment in many cases, while the rural poor are left to suffer the social and environmental consequences of an industry that operates largely outside the regulatory system."
Forest Trends said the sector was dominated by Malaysian-owned interests and was predominantly focused on the harvesting of natural forest areas for log exports.
The primary markets for raw logs are in China, Japan and South Korea and many of the logs are processed in China for consumption in Europe and North America, it said.
Forests are home to half the species living on land and a key source of food, building materials and medicines for people. A net 7.3 million hectares of forest -- the size of Panama or Sierra Leone -- was lost each year from 2000-2005, according to United Nations data.