BARNABAS ORERE PONDROS
A RAPID rise in population is one of the leading causes of deforestation together with major mining and energy projects, as compared to commercial forestry, the PNG Forest Industries Association (PNGFIA) Inc said.
“The leading cause of deforestation is not commercial forestry, rather it is rapid population increase,” executive officer of PNGFIA Bob Tate said.
Rising population growth, according to Mr Tate, is putting undue pressure on the land for subsistence and small-scale agriculture and on forests for wood for fuel.
According to the 1998 UNDP Human Development report, the PNG population is growing at the rate of 2.3% per annum and doubles every 25 years or so and, by 2025, the population will be around nine million, and by 2050, 18 million.
“Major mining and energy projects and large scale land conversion for agricultural uses are also becoming increasingly significant as contributors to deforestation,” he said.
Mr Tate raised these concerns to counter criticisms by environmental advocacy groups that are against commercial forestry in developing nations.
He said commercial forestry, if undertaken in sustainable fashion, would contribute significantly to economic growth, thus raising living standards.
“Wide scale replacement of commercial forestry with community forestry would reduce economic growth and thereby lower living standards.”
Mr Tate said the PNGFIA was committed to moving the industry forward towards “a more sustainable basis”.
But to undertake this massive task, there must be a proper technical and policy infrastructure, which at the moment was inadequate, he said.
For a start, he said that PNG needed a national forestry inventory as without that, conservation efforts rely on guesswork.
“A leading problem with which the industry has to work is weakness in the management of the forest resource by Government.”
Under PNG laws, the Government is responsible for forest restoration after harvesting.
“Royalties are levied on companies to meet the costs, however, the implementation by Government is poor,” he said.
He urged the Government to strengthen forest training schools and for a national forestry standard to be developed.
Earlier reports quoted Forests Minister Belden Namah saying that the Government was already taking steps to review its forest policies.
“There’s a need for rapid action to replace trees that have been cut.
And I believe for every tree cut, we should plant three more new trees to make up for it. That is one major policy I am looking at,” he said.