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Christian leaders in PNG protect mountain from quarry plans: save precious streams

October 9 2007:

PNG's astonishing natural landscape is threatened by quarrying and logging.

Evangelical church leaders in PNG are resisting the plans of a quarrying company to remove part of a mountain area in order to obtain building materials for a major road.

Ministers from churches around Marung village in the Southern Highlands province preached at the village market in August to urge the people living around Komea Mountain not to sell all their natural habitats to the Carson Pratt Company. The Carson Pratt Company has just moved into the Komea Mountain extracting lime rocks for the Nipa – Tari road construction. As a result several fresh streams like; Ingim, Wemso, Til. Topa and Handa are under a severe threat of drying up. Apart from these streams are trees and their habitats that will be destroyed.

In addition, environmental activism by the group has led to several PNG women going into tree farming. Traditionally Waola women are not expected to plant trees: this is thought to be men’s’ responsibility. But Donna Wapung and Tolom Awe of Nemnda and Kware villages of Nipa District purchased 80% of the trees in their district this month.

Other projects initiated by the group include:

* seed collecting. The group’s workers have made an effort to collect evergreen and gum seeds in particular. They were sown in October 2007.

NEWS OCT 18: The Evangelical Alliance of PNG executive has decided to give the project its 4x4 utility truck. "This is the only truck we had for my use but seeing that Simil needed a vehicle to do his work effectively our board decided to give him this truck," said David Kima of EAPNG. Australian benefactors are working on finding the replacement.
* boosting tree growing. This is happening among many villagers in Nipa, Margarima, Tari and Koroba Districts as a direct effect of NEF’s work. “Many have been observing NEF’s activities in the past six years. Now they are imitating us to raise seedlings, and are even beginning to take care of natural forests and vegetations,” Pastor Simil Hondolwa of the Tiliba (Good News) Christian Church said.

* selling trees: the highest order ever from NEF history was from Marthias Hamaga who purchased 500 of desert and gum seedlings for Kundugu Community School, due to be delivered in late 2007. “It is way out in the Koroba district of the Southern Highlands Province," Pastor Simil said. "It will take us five and half hours to get there following the Mendi – Tari - Koroba road in the western part of the said Province." The rest of the orders are from within Nipa itself where most of the customers want evergreen spices.

* projects at Pesab and Pesi: At the Pesi village of Nipa 302 Pei spice tree seedlings were supplied to the Pesab Company in mid 2007. At the end of August it was determined that most were growing well. The 18 that had dried up for lack of watering will be replaced. It takes 15 minutes to get to Pesi from the Peya tree seedlings farm and often on Saturday, the big market day, NEF staff go to sell trees at the Pesi market. “In September we sold almost every single tree displayed no matter what spices,” Pastor Simil said.

“I personally did an informal survey to find out what motivated them to purchase more seedlings than any other villages in Nipa. Most people told me that because most of the natural trees around the area were over-harvested, people were now beginning to realize how severe the need for trees will be in the years to come. And so the wise ones are beginning to plant new ones now on their own customary land. Soon the common resource forests will be over-used.”

Problems and challenges include:

* many of the seeds did not take in 2007, and thousands of good seeds were lost. “It seems we will have a planting gap especially of the most wanted spices like evergreen and desert pines. However we have hapul and gum spices available to satisfy the farmers demand in the meantime” Pastor Simil said.

Pastors preaching the environmental message in PNG
* Constant Truck Breakdown: The old Toyota utility pick up - privately owned by one of the NEF members - is breaking down increasingly often. Something newer is needed to help meet the rising demand for transporting trees ,for public awareness and to move personnel and materials to planting sites. NEF members are praying for a donor to provide a 4-wheel drive diesel engine vehicle, to allow the transport of workers, materials and trees from place to place within NEF’s network. “One immediate challenge at our fingertips is to transport the 500 trees for Kundugu School in Koroba.”

* Isolation of some nurseries: the two main nursery areas at Hepilda and Wipa have had to be left for a period of three months, since the old Toyota can no longer climb the windy, rugged and steep mountain road of the Temind forests to reach them. There were no visits, and it was impossible to supervise the workers there. “However, despite of this challenge we will try at all means to energize the nurseries and plantings that supply some ten villages.”

Background

The Hogave Centre for Theology and Ecology in the Highlands opened in 2003, with funds from TEAR Australia. The first major consultation of church leaders took place on the theme of conservation, supported by ARC and the World Bank in collaboration with TEAR. Heads of major Protestant traditions – Lutheran, Anglican and Free Church – met for 4 days to explore the biblical basis of conservation. The meeting produced the Goroka Declaration signed by all the major Protestant leaders of Papua New Guinea and committing their churches to a programme of environmental work, study and education. This is the first time that such a commitment has been made in PNG and involves 4 major theological colleges, laity training and development/education work in the main church networks. Contact:

NIPLAI ECO-FORESTRY, PO BOX 458, MENDI, SOUTHERN HIGHLANDS PROVINCE, PAPUA NEW GUINEA.
NEWS OCT 18: The Evangelical Alliance of PNG executive has decided to give the project its 4x4 utility truck. "This is the only truck we had for my use but seeing that Simil needed a vehicle to do his work effectively our board decided to give him this truck," said David Kima of EAPNG. Australian benefactors are working on finding the replacement.


Links

Link here to read a story about PNG pastors organising clean-up initiatives.

Link here to read the Goroka Declaration, written and signed in 2003 by Christians in PNG, promising to protect the environment in PNG through education, advocacy, motivation and practical support.

Link here to learn about the Environmental Handbook for PNG Christians, written in pidgin.

Link here to download Christian Caring for the Environment (2.6MB).

Link here to learn more about the World Bank's environmental/biodiversity work with the Evangelical Alliance and other Christian organisations in PNG.

Link here to link to the website for the Evangelical Brotherhood Church in PNG.

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