png1.jpgHere's an update from Dean on the Esperanza in Papua New Guinea

When we arrived here at Paia Inlet in the Gulf Province - a huge roar greeted the Esperanza crew from hundreds of locals lining the shore. There were people in small log canoes singing and dancing with joy. Some had even made their own protest banners - complementing ours. Tears welled in the eyes of our crew.

"Some of these people have been suffering under the logging company for 23 years" said Kemaru Garry Bissue, Chairman of the Kikori Environmental Association and landowner from Kibiri Tribe. They were very happy to see the Greenpeace ship.

The water of the Aiai River is muddy from soil running off the hills where the forest has been chopped down. The timber is dragged to waterways, piled on barges to fill the holds of enormous cargo ships, taken to China, made into plywood, furniture and outdoor decking, before eventually being thrown into a landfill or incinerated in a distant land.

This river is crocodile territory and numerous new species of birds, fish, frogs and plants have been discovered here.

Originally a deal allowed Turama Forest Industries, a Rimbunan Hijau group company, to cut down 187,000 hectares in the Turama concession area. But locals now tell how the decision to extend the logging was rushed through in a few hectic days leading up to an election. This was not just any logging extension though, the Turama Extension expanded the reach of the chainsaws into 1.7 million hectares of rainforest!

"There wasn't enough time for people to consider what would be good and bad for them in the deal" Kemaru Garry Bissue told us.

"But, some people signed and the forests started falling."

It's heartbreaking to hear stories first hand of the total disrespect from the company towards the resource owners who's forests they are making hundreds of millions of dollars from.

These include the destruction of sacred sites, with-holding royalty payments, logging too close to villages and endangering the food supply.


Villagers from Omati village stand at one of their 'sacred sites', in the rainforests of the 'Turama extension' logging concession

"I have to walk 6-8 km to find food for my family", said Kila Oumabe from the Beseremen Clan. "I used to walk out my backdoor to find the plants and animals to feed my family. Now sometimes I don't come back til 9 o'lock or midnight with nothing."

Ongoing complaints from resource owners regarding the many serious breaches of the logging agreement by Turama Forest Industries, have been ignored by the Papua New Guinean Government.

Forest destruction is responsible for about one fifth of annual global greenhouse gas emissions annually. And despite the Papua New Guinea Government asking for international funds to protect its forests for the benefit of the global climate, illegal and destructive logging continues to be rampant here.

--UPDATE -- Four of our activists have managed to stop a ship loading timber here and they are still on board over 24 hours later - harnessed to a crane! Read more.

Images © Greenpeace/ Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert