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Bumpy ride for conservation in PNG as lack of roads hinders activities

10 / 06 / 2019, Mongabaycom News

The four-wheel-drive is king of the road in Papua New Guinea. Driving anywhere outside the capital, Port Moresby, is a whiplash roulette of swerving around zigzag crevices and blindsiding potholes. When the Australian government, a primary source of infrastructure aid funding for PNG, evaluated PNG’s road management from 2007-2017, it found almost 60 percent of national roads to be “in very poor condition.” This included sections of PNG’s sparse highways. Although the Pacific island nation is about the size of California, and has as many people as Switzerland (8 million), it has just three highways. These highways pass through PNG’s central provinces. None lead to, or from, Port Moresby, colloquially referred to as “Pom.” This lack of road access makes it difficult for rural schools, hospitals and other services to receive supplies and staff. It also leaves the 80 percent of PNG’s population that live in rural areas stranded and isolated from essential services. “When people are sick, many people walk, and they die while walking to reach medical services,” says Kenn Mondai, executive director of local conservation NGO Partners with Melanesians (PwM). The underdeveloped road systems also put environmental NGOs in a bind. Such groups rarely advocate for road construction, which is linked to forest fragmentation and biodiversity loss. In PNG, however, they find themselves backing the maintenance and construction of paved roads. Here, the lack of vehicular access is so acute it limits the abilities of environmental groups to reach remote rural communities and to conserve wildlife. A…

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