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By Peter Kasia

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (July 13, 1998 - The National)---There is always a potential in tourism as a sustainable and viable economic investment in rural communities and this must be encouraged at the national, provincial and local levels, Tourism, Trade and Industry Vice-Minister Ginson Saonu, said.

Mr. Saonu said that there was always the notion that tourism was only viable in the urban centers and mostly at locations easily accessible to tourists.

He made these remarks last week while officiating at the Wasab Eco-Tourism Project on the Rai Coast District of Madang province.

He said that the occasion at Wasab was indicative of the potential of tourism in the rural communities and urged the people to look at ways and means of helping themselves to generate money through tourism rather than sitting back and expecting the Government to channel funds to their doors.

"What we have today is no miracle. It is nothing more than the collective efforts of a village community, striving to make the best of the little resources they are proud of.

"I congratulate you all on a job well done and this project should stand out as a practical example of Papua New Guineans taking the lead role in making something out of nothing," he said.

Mr. Saonu said that the Wasab people have proven themselves in rehabilitating the nature reserve for their village community and the eventual lead on to creating parts of it into an eco-tourism project.

The location where the project was launched used to be a forest habitat, but in 1985 it was exploited by logging operations that devastated the land.

Upon realizing their loss, the Wasab community organized themselves and initiated re-afforestation for most parts of the land.

The program, which began in 1987 and continued for three years, gradually restored the land.

In 1996, after almost 11 years of secondary growth, the Wasab community went to establish a resource center to preserve and conserve the remaining rain-forests.

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