Forest, land-use and development planning in New Guinea

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Pukapukui, Papua New Guinea.
© WWF-Paul Chatterton

At the intersection of development and conservation

As roads are allowed to cut through high biodiversity forests, dams are built in naturally sensitive areas and logging concessions impinge on the land of traditional peoples, communities and wildlife find themselves on the losing end of the deal.
Sometimes, there is no deal at all.
In the Forests of New Guinea programme sites, WWF works with planning authorities and communities to restore the balance between development and conservation, with a strong focus on equitable sharing of natural resources.

WWF’s work in spatial planning is based on a glaring realization: often, plans are short-sighted and seek to bring quick financial benefits, sacrificing natural resources and traditional rights in the process.

But alternatives exist. For WWF, it’s all about keeping the focus on long-term sustainable development while ensuring economic needs are met.

It all starts with a vision

WWF is commited to develop 'visions' that map out a region's development for the decades ahead. One such 'vision' we are developing is in New Guinea's Bird's Head Peninsula (Indonesia), where we are assessing peoples' environmental, social and cultural conservation priorities.

As part of this effort, we are also  engaging with the local district so that it includes biodiversity conservation in its spatial planning efforts.

What is catchment management all about?

In the Kikori River Basin, PNG, WWF is rolling out renewed efforts to protect the water-catchment area of Lake Kutubu, a RAMSAR site. Here is the basic principle: Managing effectively the catchment area of Lake Kutubu will ensure that quality water supplies are sustained over time. With a sound understanding of local ecology, community needs and land-use and legal framework, WWF can prepare a management plan for the decades ahead.

‘Big-picture’ conservation

WWF is looking at the big picture in the TransFly, a vast ecoregion of grasslands and other habitats in southcentral New Guinea. This area spans Papua New Guinea and Indonesia across 10 million ha.

Our blueprint for long-term planning and conservation here is called the Biodiversity Vision (or Biovision) for the TransFly, a strategy to help define which areas are important from a biological and cultural perspective.

The TransFly Ecoregion Programme is developing approaches to conservation that embrace both biodiversity and the range of cultures of the TransFly. While our wildlife surveys help us identify conservation priorities, it is the socio-cultural factors that will determine the success or failure of conservation efforts.

The TransFly: A community Vision

There are over 60 cultural groups, whose lives, customs, languages and knowledge are linked inextricably with the landscapes of the TransFly.

WWF consulted widely with communities, government, NGOs and donors to socialise the biodiversity vision approach, seek input on the process and identify additional priorities that need to be considered in the final vision.

Community groups have already identified that they would like to see their ancestor routes and important cultural places also included in the biodiversity vision. These areas have been locked into the vision.

Out & about

There are no roads and sometimes there are no airstrips, so hiking is often our best recourse to meet some of our most isolated stakeholders. In the process, we have learned that a sliced lemon, stuck on a long stick, easily removes a leech that is already sucking blood from your body.

From biovision to action plan

In May 2006, the result of more than 3 years of arduous work in the TransFly came to a head. Some 75 people - including NGO representatives, landowners, and government agencies - from Indonesia and PNG met to bring together the community visions and the biological vision and develop a strategy for conservation action across the TransFly for the next 50 years.

Special consideration for important habitats

Some very encouraging commitments were made. Both countries agreed that all critical habitat types, such as grasslands, beach ridges, permanently inundated wetlands and mudflats should be included in the TransFly landscape. Also, all riverine land-systems and at least 60% of all monsoon forest should receive special management. And finally, all cultural sites mapped on the Indonesian side of the ecoregion were to be excluded from development plans.

It was also agreed that district planners in Papua Province will work with WWF to incorporate the vision results into the formal spatial plan for Merauke – an encouraging commitment for the area’s sustainable development.

The Managing Director of PNG’s Forest Authority affirmed the Authority’s commitment to the vision process and that the vision map will provide the basis for making informed decisions on resource management in the area.

Turning the action plan into action

From this workshop emerged an action plan, which focuses on taking the results of the vision back to government agencies, communities and NGO partners to generate further buy-in and cement some of the initial commitments.

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