On 3 September, four Greenpeace activists stopped a ship loading piles of logged timber from Papua New Guinea’s Paradise Forests. Their peaceful action was supported by many local people who sang and danced as they watched from boats.
The activists, who were harnessed to a loading crane, stayed on the ship for three days.
Raoni, from New Zealand, was one of those activists. Here’s what he says about his time on the crane:
“Every day, long canoes filled with villagers paddled around, shouted up and sang encouragement. The other three crew of my climb team – all Papua New Guineans – were revelling in their role as crane occupiers. Armed with flutes, songs and laughter we made sure there was never a dull moment between the seriousness of media interviews over the satellite phone.”
Raoni and his fellow activists want the world to know that forest destruction is responsible for about one fifth of annual global greenhouse gas emissions.
And despite the Papua New Guinea government asking for international funds to protect its forests for the benefit of the global climate, illegal and destructive logging is still rampant here.
Dean Baigent-Mercer, who was on board the Greenpeace ship Esperanza during the action on the Aiai River, has this update:
“The water of the Aiai River is muddy from soil running off the hills where the forest has been chopped down, dragged to waterways, piled on barges to fill the holds of enormous cargo ships, taken to China, made into plywood/kitset furniture/outdoor decking, before eventually being thrown into a landfill in a distant land.
“This river is crocodile territory. It drains the huge Kikori basin. WWF funded wildlife surveys here in the 1995 and numerous new species of bird, fish, frogs and plants were discovered here.
“The original deal allowed Turama Forest Industries, a Rimbunan Hijau group company, to cut down 187,000 hectares in the Turama concession area. Later, locals tell how the decision to extend the logging was rushed through in a few pressure cooker days leading up to an election. This was not just any logging extension though, the Turama Extension expanded the reach of the chainsaws into 1.7 million hectares of rainforest.
“Ongoing complaints from resource owners regarding the many serious breaches of the logging agreement by Turama Forest Industries have been ignored by the Papua New Guinean government.”
After ignoring resource owners’ concerns for 13 years, Turama Forest Industries has now promised to review the logging agreement for the Turama Extension, a concession covering 1.7 million hectares. We will be watching the review process to ensure it follows PNG forestry laws and delivers a just outcome for resource owners.