New findings: Millions of hectares of customary land stolen for logging

'Up For Grabs'

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Feature story - July 30, 2012
A massive land grab has occurred in Papua New Guinea (PNG) and the impact on communities across the country has been devastating. Greenpeace has produced a new report that details the extent of the damage.

PNG is a nation rich in forests, which have long been in the eye of foreign logging companies. Most of this dense forest land is held under customary ownership by communities. To gain access to PNG’s valuable forests, a scandalous scheme has been systematically rolled out across the country.

Greenpeace’s report ‘Up for Grabs’ details how customary landholders have been alienated from 5.1 million hectares of land and forests – land they depend on for their food, homes and livelihoods.

The scandalous scheme is called Special Agricultural and Business Leases (SABLs). It has allowed unrepresentative landholders and foreign-owned companies to swindle and steal people’s land and livelihoods for up to 99 years.

Greenpeace’s data and mapping analysis shows how this massive land grab occurred and how logging companies have been allowed to satisfy their appetite for tropical logs through this poorly regulated and often corrupt government policy.

The report also reveals that:

  • Log exports in PNG grew by almost 20 per cent in 2011 due almost entirely to logging within SABLs.
  • Since 2006, logging companies have exported over 1.5 million cubic metres of whole logs from SABLs, amassing over USD 145 million for the companies involved.
  • 75 per cent of SABLs are controlled by foreign-owned corporations and almost all the logs are being exported to China.
  • The PNG Government was grossly negligent in its responsibility to protect the rights of customary landholders while they were being pressured by logging companies to hand over their land.

Crime file
In one case, in the Pomio District of East New Britain, customary landholders opposing the land grab were beaten and abused by police on two separate occasions. The police were being paid by notorious logging giant, Rimbunan Hijau.

Like many leases, the Pomio SABL was fraudulently obtained and many of the names said to have approved the lease were of dead people and local children - one was as young as three.

Greenpeace is standing alongside local communities in PNG calling for all fraudulently obtain SABLs to be overturned and for the people’s land handed back to them.

We’re also calling on the newly elected PNG Government to put the rights of landowners and communities before short-term company profits - the lives and homes of generations of Papua New Guineans depend on it.

Download the report.