Papua New Guinea’s Indigenous Groups Fight Deforestation
August 3, 2011 | One Comment
Located 160km north of Australia, Papua New Guinea (PNG) is home to some of the world’s richest biodiversity. In fact, although only about the size of California, it holds 5% of the entire world’s biodiversity and is renowned for its rainforest, the third largest in the world. About 1/4 of the species in PNG are found nowhere else in the world.
Moreover, PNG is home to a large indigenous population and some 800 languages (10% of the world’s languages), which reflects the country’s incredible diversity. Because most of the indigenous groups are small, communal, and heavily dependent on their ancestral land for survival, any disruption or loss of land can be devastating.
Unfortunately, for more than a decade now, indigenous-occupied lands, as well as the rainforests and biodiversity they carry, have been under threat by foreign logging companies.
While much of the attention on deforestation has been focused on larger countries, like Brazil, forests in Papua New Guinea have been quietly disappearing for years. Deforestation has held steady since the 90s at a rate of 1.4% a year. One study by UPNG Remote Sensing Centre shows most of the forest will be gone by 2021.
Much of this logging has been illegal and has caused devastating effects for the people who depend on the forests to survive. In one shocking case, Concord Pacific, a Malaysian timber company, was granted clearance to build a road and cut the forests 40 meters from either end of the road. The company cut that amount and then some, clearing 20 kilometers (12.4miles) from either side of the road, 500 times the amount allowed.
A victory made possible by you!
Because of the deforestation, local communities felt devastating environmental effects ranging from erosion and flooding to disappearing animals that they depended on for food. A Global Greengrants grantee and organization of former advisor Damien Ase, Center for Environmental Law and Community Rights (CELCOR), helped local indigenous groups raise their voices. They brought a legal case against Concord Pacific. Since 2001 and thanks to Global Greengrants donors, CELCOR has received small grants to assist indigenous groups in the battle against logging and deforestation.
This summer, in a landmark decision, the court fined the logging company $100 million for the illegal activities. The compensation will be paid to four tribes who filled the case, the Kuni, Pare, Zimakana, and Yonhom. The decision sets an important precedent for other companies contemplating logging in PNG, and illustrates the power indigenous groups can have in protecting the land.
Your support is still needed!
On the heels of this substantial victory, CELCOR faces new challenges. Just after the decision was announced, CELCOR’s offices were broken into and computers were stolen.
The organization has 7 other pending cases against other logging companies, so their work is incredibly important. Your support is still needed to help PNG’s indigenous groups protect their forests. Make a donation to support small grants like these allowing indigenous groups to win huge environmental victories!