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‘Beautiful legislation’ fails to protect PNG’s environment, landowners

14 / 02 / 2019, Mongabaycom News

Papua New Guinea is a canopy-covered country, with a substantial chunk of the world’s third-largest rainforest  and some 7 percent of global biodiversity. It is home to many endemic species, from legless lizards to the amber-plumed Raggiana bird-of-paradise (Paradisaea raggiana), immortalized on the nation’s flag. These natural wonders are ostensibly safeguarded by laws that include the Land Act of 1996, the Environment Act (2000), Forestry Act (1991), Mining Act (1992) and the Oil and Gas Act (1998). Regulations also cover everything from marine pollution to timber exports, to gaining free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) for land acquisition. The laws “look good on paper,” says Evelyn Wohuinangu, principal lawyer at PNG’s Centre for Environmental Law and Community Rights (CELCOR), an NGO. The slate of statutes constitutes “beautiful legislation,” agrees Peter Dam from FORCERT, an NGO that works with forest communities. But when it comes to putting environmental criminals behind bars, “it is all still talk,” Dam says. A lack of enforcement and accountability has rendered this precious paradise vulnerable, its flora and fauna threatened, and its citizens insecure. Papua New Guinea’s emblematic Raggiana bird-of-paradise (Paradisaea raggiana). Photo by Laura Wolf via Flickr (CC BY 2.0) Colonial holdovers PNG’s current smorgasbord of environmental legislation is a legacy of colonial rule. It was handed down from Australia, which in turn inherited it from Britain. “It’s a copy and paste,” Wohuinangu says. PNG declared itself independent from Australia in 1975, so colonialism remains within living memory; people across the country still refer to…

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