Sunday, May 30, 2010

Papua New Guinea politicians playing a deadly game of Russian roulette

A simple amendment into environment law may help wipe out most of our long-term renewable marine resources




The Government on Friday, May 28, 2010 bulldozed yet again another constitutional amendment in the environmental law without any real extensive consultations carried out or an analytical research into what the effects and consequences of the law amendments may bring us.

All those MPs who supported the bill have no idea nor do they have the country’s best interest at heart.

They have thrown our country and its people to the dogs and right outside our very own gates to make us become spectators of the destructions that will take place after all the mining, oil and gas activities are over.

 The proposed amended to the Environment Bill was passed with an absolute majority after the third reading in Parliament but no-one bothered to give any explanation during the last two readings as to what the long-term negative impacts this changes would bring on our nation’s other renewable resources.

In plain simple terms the Government of the day has now allowed the current and all future non-resource developers who are coming into Papua New Guinea to literally destroy our environment just to extract our minerals and non renewable resources from our land and no one is allowed to stop them.

 Let me elaborate bit into what may happen after this changes are enacted


Ramu Nickel’s deep sea tailings approved

Ramu Nickel Project in Madang with its deep sea tailings (DST) has now been given the go-ahead by the State to dump its tailings into the Basamuk bay.

 The Chinese are known throughout the world for their don’t care attitudes” and sheer negligence in environmental damages and destructions and our Government has now said: “OKAY please destroy our environment and get all the Nickel out”.

 Simple economic analysis will tell you that the nickel prices have dropped so drastically throughout the world and will continue to do so.

This is simple economics that any educated person will know and understand because many global currencies today are doing away with the use of the nickel metal for their coins only because they do not have any value anymore – the plastic money is more popular today than ever.

·        How much is our Government expected to profit from the Ramu Nickel mine after its proposed lifetime has come to an end?

·        Will the nickel extracted be of any value or will it be worthless?

·        Was it worth the while for the Government to amend the environmental law?

 During the passing of the amendments to the Environmental Act and those MPs who try to justify that the deep sea tailings in Lihir Gold mine and Misima Gold mine has no environment impacts cannot even compare to the damages it would bring on Madang’s Tuna industry.


Madang’s Ramu Nickel’s DST effects

The Ramu Nickel Project in Madang with its deep sea tailings (DST) into the Basamuk Bay will drastically affect not only the livelihoods of the people who are seafaring but will eventually kill of the country’s biggest tuna industry.

 With the go ahead of DST, the tuna migratory paths that en routes Madang waters through the Western and Central Pacific oceans will severely affect the deep sea marine ecosystem and disrupt the vital food-chain for some of our most-valuable and renewable tuna resources to thrive on.

 PNG tuna and fisheries zone located in the Western and Central Pacific as compared to other tropical waters in the region is highly productive as a result of its geographical and climatic location.

 It is influenced by localised upwelling [meaning an upward flow of cold, heavy deep-sea water, laden with nutrients, as warm surface water is drawn away by offshore currents] associated with large number of islands, reefs and sea mounts, periodic extensions of the equatorial upwelling, seasonal monsoon upwelling and current reversals along the New Guinea north coast, and nutrient run-off from the high rainfall landmass.

 The tuna species of principal interest in the PNG are the offshore tunas, which include skipjack Katsuwonus pelamis, yellowfin Thunnus albacores, bigeye tuna Thunnus obesus, and albacore Thunnus alalunga.

 The world production of tuna on an annual basis of around 3.2 million mt, of which skipjack comprises some 1.48 million mt (47.3%), yellowfin 1.19 million mt (37.9%), bigeye 283,000 mt (9.0%), and albacore 193,000 mt (6.1 %).

Approximately 1.2 million mt of this world catch is taken in the Central and Western Pacific ocean, with up to 30% of the regional tuna production coming from PNG in exceptional years and 20% in most years;

 Over the past decade the estimated purse-seine catch from PNG waters exceeded 200,000 mt in three years, the highest being over 350,000 mt.

The highest estimated catch in the longline fishery has been 19,500 mt in 1978.

Since the domestication of the longline fishery in 1995, this young industry exported between 800 mt and 1000 mt annually. [Fisheries Management Act 1998. The National Tuna Fishery Management Plan]


Misima Gold Mine’s DST effects

MPs from Milne Bay should ask themselves why all their sea cucumbers and bêche-de-mer harvesting are almost gone.

Studies have shown that all sea cucumbers extract bacteria and organic matter from bottom sediments and some are responsible for bioperturbation and oxygenation of the sea floor.

 In the past only a handful of beche-de-mer species were considered most valuable, but rapid declined in abundance of these group in the last 20 years has led the less-favoured species being harvested increasingly.

 Today there are currently 20 different species being harvested commercially in PNG.

 There has been a marked declined in the volume of high value species and an increase in the volume of the low value species taken.

The opening of the market to new species that traditionally had no commercial value has dramatically impacted on the volume of export.

Figures for 2000 showed PNG exported about 607mt valued about K16.2 million.

 Of that the low value species accounted for 61% (370mt) and high value species made up the remaining.

In 2001 PNG exported 484mt value about K17.2 million and again the low value species accounted for more than 60% of the total export. [Fisheries Management Act 1998 - The National Beche-de-mer Fishery Management Plan]

 Consequently, it is not proven but DST alone may have already caused some very drastic changes to the condition and nature of seafloor sediments with unknown impacts on the existing renewable resources and also other marine resources unknown to us.


Lihir Gold Mine’s DST effects

Lihir Island is almost encompassed by open seas and the impact of DST can easily be absorbed by the vast oceans.

 However, MPs in New Ireland should still ask themselves why all their villagers who practice the bottom long-line fishing method that has a mainline that lies on the bottom or is suspended near the sea bottom for the majority of its length may not be as successful nowadays and may be attributed to the drastic effects of DST.

 DST from the Lihir Gold Mine may have already caused some very drastic changes to the condition and nature of seafloor sediments around New Ireland’s coastlines and may have had unknown impacts on the local fishing industry.

 Any prospects in New Ireland’s future shark fishery industry that may target deep bottom sharks for their liver oil may already be at an adverse risk from the Lihir mines DST.

Shark products grew from about 20mt, processed weight (dried fins and dressed frozen) in 1990 to almost 2,000mt in 2000.

Shark meat, oil and fins (frozen and dried) have been the primary products exported.

The shark oil production peaked in 1992 with a volume of 20.73mt worth K1, 030,277.39. [NATIONAL SHARK LONGLINE MANAGEMENT PLAN 2002]


Liquefied Natural Gas pipeline effects

The proposed Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) project in the Southern Highlands and cuts into the Gulf and Central provinces will literally put the country’s renewable prawn industry and its vast abundance of marine resources at risk.

 The current pipeline that now services the Kummel Terminal in the Gulf province has already had serious and unfavorable effects of its 1m pipeline in diameter that has now raised the sea-bed by two meters in height.

This sea-bed rise has now changed the water temperature and has already killed off billions of marine microbes that once survived for thousands of generation as a food-source from the prawns and fish after the laying of the pipeline.

 Can anyone imagine the laying of a 70-mile LNG pipeline by Exxon Mobile right across the 14 major tributary rivers between the Western and Gulf provinces?

The pipeline will raise the sea-bed by two meters and will always be under constant pressure from these tributaries that literally pump out billions and billions of marine life through the layers of silt per minute to feed the prawn industry that is currently enjoyed by PNG.

The pipeline will also be a major risk of being damaged causing a catastrophic gas leak through this enormous pressure from all these tributaries.

When this happens that it is good bye PNG’s prawn industry

 The sea-bed rise can drastically change the water temperature above that supports the food-chain of marine organisms which are also an important food source to the prawns that spawn within the 14 great tributaries of the Gulf province may eventually die off completely.

By placing this 70-mile LNG pipe line may cause a very serious and long term effect that may kill of the country’s major prawn industry in the Gulf province.

 The coastline to Papua New Guinea from Parama Island (at the southern limit of the estuary of Fly River) to the border of Central and Gulf Provinces.

This prawn  species of the Family Panaeidae including the principle species white banana prawn (Panaeus merguiensis); the Indian banana prawn (Panaeus indicus); the (giant) black tiger prawn (Panaeus monodon); the brown tiger prawn (Panaeus semisulcatus); and including the lesser-value endeavour species, Metapanaeus spp.

 In 1987, annual harvests of prawn (all species) were worth K9.3 million in exports alone. The industry was overcapitalised, and after strict controls on fishing effort introduced in 1989, the value of exports declined to about K7 million in 1994 to 1997.

Although, there is a decline in the value, in reality, the fishery is profitable.

 The amendment of the Environmental Law gives us just a tip of the ice-berg into the consequential effects that are already here and it points to a devastating result it will have on some of our major renewable resources in the future.

 But what about the other non-renewable impact projects that are taking the nation by storm with their short-term and lump-sum benefits of instant wealth that will be here today and gone tomorrow.


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