PRISTINE PNG SEPIK FOREST AND WETLANDS THREATENED

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By Harlyne Joku

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (February 14, 1998-Niuswire/ Independent)---One of the largest pristine forest areas in Papua New Guinea may be opened up by a consortium of petroleum giants --BP, Esso and Oil Search-- if their proposal to construct a 400 kilometer (240 mile) gas pipeline from Tagari valley, near the Hides gas field in the Southern Highlands, northwards to the Wewak coast of East Sepik province, is approved by the PNG government.

The proposal, known as the PNGLNG project, is now before Cabinet, which is likely to make a decision in its favor, the secretary for Petroleum and Energy, Joe Gabut, confirmed on Tuesday.

It involves K3.3 billion ($US 1.86 billion) being spent on transporting gas from Hides (PNG's largest gas field), through a pipeline to Kutubu and Wewak, the constructing of a central processing facility at Tagari, and a large LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas) plant and wharf at Wewak.

The goal is to transport the LNG by ship to the north Asian markets of China and Korea.

The pipeline route to Wewak would affect the Hunstein Range, which is covered by tropical moist forests and rated high in biodiversity in PNG and the world.

PNG's Conservation Needs Assessment (CNA) report, released by the Department of Environment and Conservation, shows that the area, including the Central Range and Sepik foothills, has remarkable habitat diversity from lowland to sub-alpine forest.

It also has extensive stands of old growth kauri pine, considered of great value.

The World Bank PNG Tropical Forest Action Plan Review of 1990 recommended the Hunstein Range as a priority conservation area.

Paul Chatterton, in his book titled "The Hunstein Range," has written that the area has a remarkably wide range of "little" disturbed ecosystems.

"Biodiversity is extremely high. The range shows the westernmost extremities of a number of bird and mammal species and is estimated to have 2,500 species of plants," he wrote.

Title -- 1192 ENVIRONMENT: Sepik forest and wetlands threatened Date -- 14 February 1998 Byline -- Harlyne Joku Origin -- Niuswire Source -- The Independent (PNG), 13/2/98 Copyright -- The Independent Status – Abridged

This document is for educational and personal use only. Recipients should seek permission from the copyright source for reprinting. This service is provided by Journalism Studies, University of Papua New Guinea. Please acknowledge Niuswire: niusedita@pactok.net.au http://www.pactok.net.au/docs/nius/

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