The critical environmental and sustainability issues of Papua New Guinea:
- Desertification and loss of Biodiversity
Deforestation in Papua New Guinea has been extensive in recent decades and is continuing at an estimated rate of 1.4% of tropical forest being lost annually. Deforestation in Papua New Guinea is mainly a result of illegal logging, which contributed to 70-90% of all timber exports, one of the highest rates in the world. Illegal logging is linked to corruption, environmental issues and human rights concerns. Every year, 13 million hectares of forests are lost, while the persistent degradation of drylands has led to the desertification of 3.6 billion hectares, disproportionately affecting poor communities.
While 15 percent of land is protected, biodiversity is still at risk. Nearly 7,000 species of animals and plants have been illegally traded. Wildlife trafficking not only erodes biodiversity, but creates insecurity, fuels conflict, and feeds corruption.
- Land degradation
Land degradation is not a new phenomenon in Papua New Guinea. The country has experienced land degradation since humans practiced agriculture some 40 000 years ago. However, the paces of degradation and associated risks have increased in the last 3 decades given the country’s exposure to the forces of modernization, high rate of population growth, and high population mobility. The decrease in demand for modern livelihood has forced people to access more land for economic production without having to fully comprehend the impact of their activities on the land.
Levels of crime and violence in Papua New Guinea are high, and have remained consistently so over more than a decade. The homicide rate was 10.4 per 100,000 habitants in 2010. The rate varies widely across regions, with an estimated rate of 66 per 100,000 in Lae and 33 in the National Capital District, amongst the highest in the world. Robbery and assault are the most commonly reported crimes. Family and sexual violence is also highly prevalent, and affects both females and males.
Violent crime, such as robberies and assaults, appears to be increasing as a proportion of overall crime, and that crime is on the rise in known “hotspots” such as Lae and the National Capital District (NCD). In Lae, crime appears to have increased for 11 of the 12 categories of crime reported in 2010. The use of firearms has also been increasing since 2008.
- Poor Living Conditions
The western perception of the Pacific as a paradise is profoundly ironic, as it is a deeply troubled region. Tribal groups face immense social, political and economic problems. The health and nutrition status of the population is poor, life expectancy is low and infant mortality high. With ever greater urbanization there is a growing underclass of marginalized people living in precarious conditions in squatter camps in the capital Port Moresby and elsewhere. In 2005–6 Papua New Guinea was hammered by heavy rains for months on end, causing chaos and destruction in many vulnerable communities. Relief operations were disrupted when at least one major highway was washed away and central coordination was poor.
Approximately 39.9 percent of the population lives below the national poverty line. Rural poverty is especially prevalent, causing agriculture to suffer. The run-down health system exemplifies years of a less-than-successful governmental approach. Papua New Guinea’s poverty rate can be largely attributed to a lack of knowledge of effective farming methods and an uncommitted government.