Living in a healthy environment is my right

During the talk back show on Wednesday 2nd June 2010, the public was told that, the changes to the Environment Act 2000 to Article 69  STAY OF OPERATION OF ORIGINAL DECISION, does not impinge on the rights of local people. I am not a lawyer, but from my view as a conservationist and a landowner; gagging the public from contesting Environmental Impact Assessment decisions is an abuse of human rights, because every person  (and more so for the people who own land in the vicinity of project sites) reserve the right to protect the environment that sustains their livelihood – even if that means taking the challenge to the court of law because, these people will live with the consequences of activities that happen on their land.

The fact remains – Papua New Guineans will continually depend on the land to sustain their livelihood for a long time to come. Even the founding fathers of the PNG constitution recognized this in the Fourth Directive Principle of the  National Constitution. This Directive Principle states that we will strive to protect  the natural resources  that had sustained livelihoods since humans arrived on the island of New Guinea some thousands of years ago. Numerous commentators observe that, indeed, the nation of PNG has catapulted from the stone-age straight into the space-age in less than eight decades, this however,  holds true for only 20% of the population. The bulk of the population  in PNG (~80%) still depend on their environment to sustain their livelihood; the same way their forefathers lived. A healthy environmental is a prerequisite for this lifestyle.

Article 22 of the Human Rights declaration also states that everyone has a right to social security. Social security for any indigenous  person including any PNGean  is in an healthy environment; a piece of land (or waterbody or beach-front etc.)  to make, and sustain a livelihood. Indeed, owning a piece of land in PNG is security against poverty and hunger. Apart from being security against poverty, a healthy piece of land is the  protection of human health by way of water resource protection.

With the new proposed changes, the landowners’ future is now in the hands of the director of the Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC). The director reports to the government of the day. The changes in the law would not have caused such a hype if the people have trust in the government to look after their future, but with a below average track record – it is alarming for this generation of landowners to put their future and the future of their descendants in the hands of the government who, as is apparent now, wants to make money at the expense of the well-being of her people. How much money is enough money for economic development?

We cannot deny the fact that, without manufacturing industries, the only option for PNG is to sell her natural resources to raise the capital needed for economic development – sadly, the government seems incapable of finding that fine balance between exploiting for  economic development  and protecting the environment to preserve the livelihood of her people.

An healthy environment is a basic human right – every Papua New Guinean, including politicians come from a village and belong to a tribal group that owns a piece of land. Therefore, when it comes to protecting a piece of land,  the fight should spring up intuitively from deep within. The proponents of this law, must either be living in denial of their roots, they have been brainwashed  or  they just don’t realize the implications of their action and are just puppets controlled by  greed.

Papua New Guineans want this draconian piece of law withdrawn! It is completely unacceptable and certainly not in the best interests of the 80% of Papua New Guineans who live off their environment (forest, fishing ground, river streams).

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4 Comments

  1. June 13, 2010 at 12:35 am

    Clearly the lives of simple Papua New Guineans are put at huge risk by such moves. Our people have and continue to live happily without the luxury of fluorescent lights, television sets, flush toilets, refrigerators, and what have you but on organic food from the forests, seas, and gardens.

    The dismal failure in re-distributing wealth from the spoils of Lihir Gold , Porgera and Tabubil mine (including other mines) as the following author and his Governor cries foul almost every week clearly indicates that we as 21st century citizens must never be smug and be fooled by the illusions of development.

    Investor’s expediency must NEVER be exercised to the perils of a simple group of people whose happiness MONETARY VALUE cannot substitute.

    The citizens of this country like any other, have the right to scrutinize all developments.

    ———————————————
    View Points Friday 11th June, 2010

    Don’t give in to developers too easily
    http://www.postcourier.com.pg/20100611/frhome.htm

    I refer to the report “DSTD to go ahead despite public outcry”.
    In this report the Minister for Environment and Conservation, Benny Allan, was quoted as saying “the government will ensure that the DSTD will not affect your village life. The examples we saw happening to Misima and now Lihir has not affected them since we have not heard any noise from them”.
    It is insulting for me as a Lihirian coming from a village affected by the Deep Sea Tailing Placement (DSTP) system to read that Mr Allen has made a cheap reference to my people to cool down the tempers of the Raicoast villagers. The DSTP system has poisoned the Lihir marine life and the livelihood of my people. We are seeing dead fish and turtles with ulcerous wounds on their skins washed ashore every week. Bleached corals, uncontrolled seaweed-invasion of coral reefs and inexplicable reduction in reef fish population are now common sights on the island. Now minister, does that sound like DSTP has no environmental impact on Lihir Island to you? How can you guarantee the people of Madang that DSTP will not affect their village lives when clearly your department has failed to monitor and contain the destruction done to our marine life due to DSTP? Mr Allen and his other 73 cohorts have voted to amend the 2000 Environment Act, outlawing third party lawsuits against resource projects as in our case Lihir Gold. Resource owners of PNG have been gagged and made to accept environmental destruction in the name of development by the government they voted in.

    JM Wasa
    Sunanio, Lihir Island

    • June 16, 2010 at 6:53 am

      absolutely – you hit the nail on the head when you say… “Investor’s expediency must NEVER be exercised to the perils of a simple group of people whose happiness MONETARY VALUE cannot substitute”

      ……..companies will come and companies will go – but the people will be here forever, forever dependent on nature…… money cannot buy security against poverty for any PNGean.

  2. June 15, 2010 at 9:18 am

    My conversation with Robert from Canberra, Australia
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Robert Bino To say the least: these are the impacts of globalisation and capitalism…and a government torn between the welfare of its own people and that of its capitalists’ clients – who are powerful multinational corporations who may have no respect for sovereignty especially in their dealings with small, developing nation states. Despite all this current negative publicity lets not forget that GoPNG did vote for the environment in 2008 when it decided against mining on the Kokoda Track and opted to preserve the area due to its tourism (i.e. trekking) and ecosystem services values….
    June 8 at 12:19am ·

    Tanya Zeriga-Alone Thanks Robert – sadly its true that small countries like PNG – we don’t have a voice in the big market place; regardless, surely any sovereign nation (PNG included) retain some right to determine its own future – the onus is on our leaders to stand up to the challenge and and govern the best way it suits us and not succumb to multinational corporation pressure.

    As an analogy – If PNG is a family – the father of the household is the government. The prevailing trend attests that the head of the house is either too scared to run his own household his way or is oppressed into passivity and thus lets outsiders dictate the terms and conditions on how to run his household. We need visionary leaders who have guts to stand up and out.

    True, Kokoda is a case in point but I am suspecting that maybe so because of pressure from Rudd to preserve an Aussie history and because a lot of Aussie dollars will go into Kokoda.
    June 8 at 11:03pm ·

    Robert Bino True, there was enormous pressure from Australia and Kokoda had also become an important money spinner for tourism in PNG. However GoPNG was also keen to preserve the water catchment for POM’s water supply needs (domestic and industrial) and power-generation..the new LNG plant will also require a lot of water for the cooling process to convert gas to liquid,etc – that’s from environmental services perspective but with a vested business interest…at last GoPNG is also able to view tourism as an important economic sector apart from the traditional sectors of mining, agriculture, forestry and fisheries…
    June 9 at 1:59am ·

    Tanya Zeriga-Alone

    and the irony:

    GoPNG strives to preserve the Kokoda water catchment for POMs water supply while destroying the livelihood of the Basamuk bay people; ………so what is the difference?? it is because POM people are more sophisticated than the Basamuk?

    It is obvious – the difference is the $$$$$ – Aussies will pay $$$ to preserve this area of historical and ecological significance, and even Ramu Nico will pay $$$ to generate waste. So it is apparent – it is not about good governance – it is all about the $$$$

  3. June 24, 2010 at 1:22 am

    Just some thoughts

    ..violence does not have to be the last resort to all our frustrations with the government being dictatorial in its pursuit for development… there need not be needless loss of lives, and increased animosity between the government and the people…

    We can learn a thing or two from world leaders like Mahatma Ghandhi, Martin Luther King – they used non-violent resistance tactics such as boycotts, information warfare, picketing, vigils, lobbying, civil disobedience etc (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nonviolent_resistance) – to achieve their agenda.

    Mobilizing the public in PNG can turn nasty – we have seen what happened with the Asian Riots – even if we have a plan of action, we may not be able to control opportunists who may mis-represent our intentions. Those of us on email, make about 5 % of the workforce, we can mobilize ourselves and carry out some of those non-violent tactics.

    For instance, from personal relationships, we as individuals know that it takes compromise for a continual growth on our lives. From the latest turn of events, I’d say we have been like a little kid throwing a tantrum and demanding that we get our way. We have done this and now we have hit a headlock then what?? – violence by the public will serve as fuel to harden the heart of the government against truth and justice.

    Maybe it is time to change tactic, – maybe its time to stop demanding and start negotiating. Maybe its time to get organised and engage the government in a dialogue to reach some consensus: afterall, things (including our culture, and our forests) will indeed change sometime in the future, we cannot keep delaying the inevitable.

    We could organise open forums, and debates and invite our members of parliament to attend and participate. We can pitch our best brains against theirs. If we have anything to say, we will say – if they have anything to say they will say. Let the people be the judge. Maybe we can even convince them, or they will make us see what we have not seen. Invite the media to publicize the sessions.

    Minister Fairweather, has given us a tactic we can use; at every opportunity ask your member in the presence of media and the public, what their stance are with regards to the latest turn of events. Put them on the spot. For too long, we have been attacking the law and not the people that voted for it. Use such opportunities to find out where they stand. Then, I suggest take it a step further by publicizing their answer. This should put pressure on the government.


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