Locals claim logging polluting waterways

By BENNY GETENG, Post Courier

MORE than 1000 people in New Ireland Province might be affected as their only water source is being polluted by logging operations in the area, they claim.

It is understood that the New Ireland Provincial Government has ordered a team to investigate the environmental damages. Several locals who have written to the Post-Courier stated that the other sources of water they use for their daily needs have already been affected and the last one, at Rubio plantation, is their only means for their daily use.

The villagers are from Karu village in Namatanai district, of which a logging company, Viva Success, has been logging timber from their area for some time.

One of the signed letters by seven clan representatives read: "We the people of Karu village support Shane Clark in his work to protect the water systems located at Rubio.

"Currently this is the last water source in the community since the logging company has damaged the rest. This was the only water source that served ward 14 and neighbouring villages during the 1997 drought."

Another, signed by a local pastor, a teacher and village court magistrate from Karu village, stated that to their understanding, any logging company should do selective logging and there are zones that timber should not be extracted from (away from water sources).

"Now we believe the company doesn’t care about the people and their welfare, they are only interested in money. Clear felling is no longer entertained in the forestry act but today you can clearly see that it still practiced today regardless of the forestry law."

Another signed letter stated: "Our water has been seriously affected by logging company’s activities. We have used this stream for over years and years for most of our survival needs e.g. drinking, cooking, washing and laundry. Since the logging company moved into our community, it has affected our water seriously."

Another by the VPC chairman to the logging company amongst other claims stated that wara bagarap (water is no good). It further states that the named logging company cease operations and have an open dialogue with the people of the area.

However, according to American Shane Clark, who has been vocal on the logging company’s operations into the area, he recently went to the site and took pictures of an area that was logged four months ago and realised that there is not one usable stream in the whole area.

"When the people in the area complained to the logging company and the landowner company (Basoma Ltd), no one cared," Mr Clark said.

"When they complained to the police who are based with the loggers, no one listened. When they burned one of the bulldozers, they got arrested. When they tried to put up a gorgor, they were threatened with arrest. This seems to be a common scenario that is being repeated. Only the logging companies seem to have rights. Where are our rights as citizens?"