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19 July 2021 | dataset

Infrastructure expansion challenges sustainable development in Papua New Guinea

Department of Environment and Conservation

The Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) was established in 1985. Its mission (approved by the National Executive Council on 22 August 1989) is to ensure natural and physical resources are managed to sustain environmental quality and human well-being.

The key legislations administered by the Department are:

Environmental Planning Act 1978

Environmental Contaminants Act 1978

Conservation Areas Act 1978

National Parks Act 1982

International Trade (Fauna & Flora) Act 1979

Fauna (Protection and Control) Act 1966

Crocodile Trade (Protection) Act 1974

Water Resources Act 1982

It also has an important role under the Forests Act 1992.

The Papua New Guinea Forest Authority (PNGFA) was established in 1993 under the 1991 Forestry Act replacing the former Department of Forest, and unifying all Provincial Forest Divisions and the Forest Industries Council. The PNGFA has 19 provincial offices which include five regional offices. The PNGFA mission statement is to: Promote the management and wise utilization of the forest resources of Papua New Guinea as a renewable asset for the well- being of present and future generations.

PNGFA Group has been created to facilitate sharing of useful data / information that could feed into SOE, MEA and SDG Reports.

The Department of Works (DOW) is the Papua New Guinea Government’s implementing agency for infrastructure in the country. It is the biggest and one of the oldest government organizations in the country starting as the Office of Works and Supply during the pre-independence era. Being the biggest is due to the fact that it is the only department in the government that can boast having an office in every province in the country all linked together through the wide area network. DOW is responsible for maintaining approximately a total of 8,738.46 kms of roads throughout the country. This figure stands as of 2007. Of this total, 5,755.20km are graveled, 2,779.48km are sealed and the remaining 523.35km are inaccessible due to factors such as weather conditions etc.

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The island of New Guinea hosts the third largest expanse of tropical rainforest on the planet. Papua New Guinea—comprising the eastern half of the island—plans to nearly double its national road network (from 8,700 to 15,000 km) over the next three years, to spur economic growth. We assessed these plans using fine-scale biophysical and environmental data. We identified numerous environmental and socioeconomic risks associated with these projects, including the dissection of 54 critical biodiversity habitats and diminished forest connectivity across large expanses of the island. Key habitats of globally endangered species including Goodfellow’s tree-kangaroo (Dendrolagus goodfellowi), Matchie’s tree kangaroo (D. matschiei), and several birds of paradise would also be bisected by roads and opened up to logging, hunting, and habitat conversion. Many planned roads would traverse rainforests and carbon-rich peatlands, contradicting Papua New Guinea’s international commitments to promote low-carbon development and forest conservation for climate-change mitigation. Planned roads would also create new deforestation hotspots via rapid expansion of logging, mining, and oil-palm plantations. Our study suggests that several planned road segments in steep and high-rainfall terrain would be extremely expensive in terms of construction and maintenance costs. This would create unanticipated economic challenges and public debt. The net environmental, social, and economic risks of several planned projects—such as the Epo-Kikori link, Madang-Baiyer link, Wau-Malalaua link, and some other planned projects in the Western and East Sepik Provinces—could easily outstrip their overall benefits. Such projects should be reconsidered under broader environmental, economic, and social grounds, rather than short-term economic considerations.