Thursday, April 24, 2008

Papua New Guinea and Australian governments yesterday agreed to preserve Kokoda

[Article from the Papua New Guinea National Newspaper, Dated: 24 April, 2008]

Kokoda to be preserved
THE PNG and Australian governments yesterday agreed to preserve Kokoda, putting an end to plans by an Australian company to develop a gold mine there.
Environment Minister Benny Allen announced that a Government task force had managed to convince the landowners to place the benefits to the nation and Australia above their aspirations.
He said the landowners will be given all infrastructure including schools, clinics and roads.
They will also be helped to sustain their livelihood, he said.
Mr Allen was speaking with his Australian counterpart Peter Garrett by his side.
Garrett said that the Kokoda trail had lured tourism from a mere 50 to 80 people a year to more than 1,000 in the last five years.
He said it was hard for Australia to see a heritage of iconic war-time value lost.
Under an agreement signed between the two governments, no mining will take place in Kokoda and the Owen Stanley Ranges of the Central and Oro provinces.
Mining Minister Dr Puka Temu told The National from Madang yesterday it is unlikely that the exploration licence currently held by Australian mining company, Frontier Holdings, will be renewed now that the agreement has been signed.
Dr Temu said he will be advising the mining advisory council against further mining exploration activities in the area.
Dr Temu, who is also deputy prime minister, described the agreement as well negotiated and “good news” for the landowners.
He said he will be meeting landowners of Kodu to explain the long-term benefits that will be gained as a result of the agreement.
Australian minister for environment, heritage and the arts Peter Garrett said in a statement after the signing that the Australian government has committed A$14.9 million to assist the PNG government in its efforts to improve the livelihoods of local communities along the track.
Garrett said Australia and PNG have agreed to preserve the historic values of Kokoda Track and maintain the integrity of the track.
He said the fund will assist to establish effective management arrangements so the track is protected and delivers increasing benefits to local people.
“Those funds will also be used to conduct a feasibility study into a world heritage nomination,” Garrett said.
He added that the department of veterans will administer A$1million of funding to develop educational materials to increase awareness of the special importance of the track.
“The Australian government is committed to following through with real resources and real action to assist the government and people of PNG in their efforts to protect the Kokoda Track and Owen Stanley Ranges while improving the people’s livelihoods.”

I view this landmark agreement between the governments of Papua New Guinea and Australia as truly significant and historic. Developing countries like Papua New Guinea at times succumb to the pressures of resource developers under the guise of creating "development" in remote and isolated communities and I may add that sadly such "developments" carries huge human and environmental costs. Kokoda may be a special case however, it is worth pointing out that Papua New Guinea is a country blessed with bountiful natural resources but careless exploitation of its natural resources will be at the expense of its future generation. Exploitation of resources can be done in a more pragmatic and sustainable manner. It only needs the government and its leaders to have a realistic long-term developmental plan for the country that requires foresight and takes into consideration the future needs and aspiration of the next generation. [John Nirenga, 24 April, 2008]

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

El-Nino blamed for poor harvest in Papua New Guinea

[Article from the Papua New Guinea National Newspaper - Wednesday April 23, 2008]

El-Nino blamed for poor harvest

DESPITE PNG recording low agriculture outputs during past national election years, election and politics are not to be blamed for these poor crop harvests, an Australian academic has said.
Dr Roderick Duncan, a marketing lecturer at the Charles Sturt University in Australia, in a recent Pacific Economic Bulletin issue, said his study has found that there had been declines in the production for PNG’s four main tree crops coffee, cocoa, oil-palm and copra during election years.
The election years covered in the study include 1977, 1982, 1987, 1992, 1997 and 2002.
However, based on calculations using models with data from PNG sources, Dr Duncan found that the four tree crop harvest declines in those years were not related to politics and the national elections, but were coincidently caused by the weather phenomenon known as the El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) during those election years.
ENSO results from the seasonal air pressure difference between Tahiti and Darwin, Australia, with high air pressure over Australia and low air pressure over Tahiti.
This brings weak trade winds resulting in droughts to countries in the Pacific like PNG.
Major ENSO episodes, he said, occurred in those years, which resulted in low rainfall during those years, affecting coffee, cocoa, oil-palm, and copra harvests.
“By estimating the supply functions of PNG cash-crop producers, what was discovered was that blame more likely lay with the ENSO episodes that occurred recently and coincided with low values with the elections of 1982 and 1997,” Dr Duncan said.
“It is this coincidence that could have led some observers to believe that harvests and elections were linked,” he said.

The above claim by Dr Duncan is quite interesting as reported in the Papua New Guinea National Newspaper today [Wednesday 23 April, 2008].

Where there is a lingering high atmospheric pressure system over an area, drought conditions can easily develop. One would most likely observe that air moisture and humidity will tend to decrease or is reduced dramatically. Furthermore, the sky usually have less cloud cover so there will be increased evapo-transpiration [evaporation from ground surfaces and from plants and vegetation]. Ground surface temperatures also increases during the day as insolation [incoming short-wave solar radiation] from the sun is not hindered by cloud cover. In the night, especially in areas like Kandep in the Enga Province of the Highlands of Papua New Guinea and other high attitude areas such as Togoba area of the Western Highlands of Papua New Guinea, night time temperatures will drop quite dramatically giving rise to early morning frosts which can be quite severe at times. As moisture in the air and soil continues to be reduced over an area by a lingering high atmospheric pressure system, one would generally observe that in such an area droughts can become established. [John Nirenga, April 23, 2008].

Monday, April 14, 2008

Climate Change and Papua New Guinea: Some Biological and Geographical Senarios

Global Climate Change can impact countries both positively and negatively in a variety of ways. But for now, I will consider broadly its biological and geographical implications as it relates to Papua New Guinea.

(1) Biological. Whilst it may be subtle in other geographic locations around the world, it can be quite pronounced in some. There may be species of plants and animals uniquely adapted to certain localities in Papua New Guinea that may not be able to migrate quite easily to newer ideal environments as their localities changes in response to the changing prevailing environmental conditions. Consequently, these plants and animal species can easily become extinct. For those plants and animals that are able to migrate, they will most certainly do and can become established in new territories. We may also find an increase in the population of bacteria and other micro organisms progressively from the coastal areas of Papua New Guinea inland upward towards the highland areas in response to increased surface temperatures. As a general note: bacterial activities and population tends to increase in warmer temperatures.

We may also find many new colonies of warmer aquatic life in upland streams and rivers as water temperature increases in response to warmer air and surface temperatures.

(2) Geographical. It is now an accepted fact that sea level is rising globally. The obvious impact of that will be the inundation and drowning of low lying coastal areas and the landward intrusion of saline water, hence contaminating the fresh water tables. Also, the global increase in temperatures has already impacted weather patterns around the world and it has influenced the severity of many weather and climatic events such as the monsoon rainfalls of South-east Asia and the prolonged drought in other parts of the world like the Ethiopia's southern Borena region.

The increase in temperatures means increases in the sea and land surface temperatures. Land and sea surface temperatures affects the air temperature which influences atmospheric pressures and working in concert with the Coriolis effect can influence the intensity and possibly the frequency of severe events such as tropical cyclones. Areas which are already dry can easily become more drier as drought conditions become established through prolonged dry periods.

Papua New Guinea is uniquely placed in the Southern hemisphere and like Australia is also influenced by other climatic events called the El nino and La Nina. It is highly likely that global Climatic change will only increase the severity and magnitude of these natural events.

Furthermore as we experience a global climatic change, the vast areas of high altitude land in Papua New Guinea once uncultivated because of the frosts and cold temperatures, may now become useful agricultural lands. This certainly will be good for the vast population of the highlands areas of Papua New Guinea.

Lastly, as areas of higher altitudes like the highlands of Papua New Guinea, will gets more warmer there will be health implications as I read from the article in the Papua New Guinea National Newspaper today. Below is the article in the Papua New Guinea National Newspaper.

[Article from the Papua New Guinea National Newspaper, Dated: 14th April, 2008]
Climate change poses real threat, says WHO
CLIMATE change has the potential to impact on a big scale on health of people, World Health Organisation representative to Papua New Guinea Dr Eigil Sorensen said.
Dr Sorensen said many lethal global killers like malaria, diarrhoea and malnutrition were sensitive to climatic conditions and together were responsible of three million deaths each year.
“WHO calculates that climate change and variability may already be the cause of an increase in the number of deaths ñ now at more than 150,000 annually ñ from malaria, diarrhoea, malnutrition and injury from floods, with half of those deaths occurring in Asia and the Pacific,” Dr Sorensen said in his speech delivered during the 12th National Health Expo.
He said the health scenario was changing and new challenges such as climate change was emerging which have implications for international public health.
“More and more people are exposed to common diseases such as malaria today than before due to climate change,” Dr Sorensen said.
Rising temperatures and increased rainfalls would result in mosquitoes being found in abundance in cooler climates, he said.
For Papua New Guinea, this could mean that that malaria would be more widespread in the highlands. People currently living in low-risk, or no-risk areas of malaria could in the future be at increased risk of malaria transmission, he said.
Dr Sorensen said the evidence for climate change was now clear and convincing.
“The Earth’s surface has warmed by more than 0.8 oC over the past century and by approximately 0.6 oC in the past three decades.
“This warming has been linked to more extreme weather conditions such as intense floods and droughts, heavier and more frequent storms, and a possible increase in frequency and intensity of the El Nino Southern Oscillation.”
Dr Sorenson said these changes were largely caused by human activities, mainly the burning of fossil fuels releasing carbon dioxide (CO2) that traps heat within the atmosphere.
“These CO2 emissions continue to rise, and climate models project the average surface temperature will rise by 1.1 oC to 6.4 oC over the 21st century if nothing is done about it,” he said.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Sea level Rise: A Problem in Papua New Guinea.

Rising Sea level is a problem faced by Papua New Guinea and many other countries in the world. It is often low lying coastal areas which are prone to the devastating impacts of sea level rise. I have witnessed first hand in Papua New Guinea whilst as an undergraduate student of geography at the University of Papua New Guinea in the late 1980's and as the Physical Geography Lecturer there in the 1990's. I had the opportunity to travel around some of the coastal low lying areas of Papua New Guinea including the Gulf and Western Provinces and it was not surprising to see the sea actively eroding and drowning huge chunks of the coasts. Many villages had to be relocated further back inland as the sea shore migrates inland. The problem is further exacerbated by increased salinity. Fresh water areas and estuaries are being drowned by progressive migration of saline water inland thus affecting local freshwater supplies. I can also perceive that there might be other complicating issues such as land tenure and ownership around coastal communities that could be a cause for concern in the future as portions of land including villages are being drowned by the sea and people are being forced to move elsewhere inland.

Today I read in the Papua New Guinea National Newspaper about the sea level rise threat to Manus Island of Papua New Guinea (see map; island description). Certainly, the government of Papua New Guinea has the political and moral responsibility to make sure that long term developmental plans for the country must consider the present as well as the future socio-environmental and economic interest of its people at heart in trying to manage this global phenomenon.

[Article from the Papua New Guinea National Newspaper -Dated: Friday 11 April,2008]
Rising sea level threatens Manus
A PROPOSAL is currently being worked on to relocate the villagers of Ahus island in Manus because of a rise in sea level.
Provincial administrator Wep Kanawi said negotiations are going on between the Ahus people and Laip, a close by village on the mainland, for the relocation.
Their food gardens and water sources have been affected. There is ongoing erosion making it difficult to build houses, make gardens and fish.
Mr Kanawi said the administration has set up a committee to help with the negotiations.
Similar problems are also being experienced in the other outer islands and coastal villages.
He said originally Manus had 218 islands. Seven have been covered by sea and between 50 and 60 villages affected.
The governor’s office is aware of the problem and said rise in sea level is a global issue and everybody’s concern.
An officer said they are aware of the negotiations between the two groups of people.
However, he did not disclose any immediate plans to relocate the people, but said the government is concern and would address it.
Asked if there was enough land on the mainland for the relocation exercise, he added: “There is enough land to relocate the people.”