How bad is illegal logging in Papua New Guinea? Pretty awful, if you believe the Asia-Sentinel, which claims the illicit timber trade is "raping" the country.
Those are strong words indeed, but they're backed up by an in-depth report from Chatham House, a respected UK think-tank that's widely regarded as an authority on illegal logging.
According to the report, around 70% of the timber harvested in the country is illegal--the result of extensive breaches of harvesting regulations by loggers, and abuses of licenses that are supposed to support commercial agricultural plantations.
The report's author, Sam Lawson, said the biggest problem is frequent collusion between loggers and corrupt government officials. Lawson told the environmental website Mongabay.com that "The logging industry in Papua New Guinea is very powerful, while the government is extremely weak."
For instance, the largest logging firm in Papua New Guinea, the Malaysian mega-corporation Rimbunan Hijau, owns one of two national newspapers in the country. It's newspaper, The National, is notoriously biased in its coverage of logging issues.
Who benefits from illegal logging? Most of Papua New Guinea's timber ends up in China, which has become a virtual black-hole for timber supplies globally. China usually buys only raw timber, often at bargain-basement prices, which is the least economically beneficial way for a country like PNG to exploit its forests.
And with rampant corruption, even these meager economic benefits are being squandered. Profits from logging end up concentrated in the hands of a few, not benefiting most of the country's citizenry.
Perhaps the rape analogy, while brutal, isn't entirely inappropriate for Papua New Guinea. It's one of the reasons that ALERT works actively to highlight the scale of illegal logging and to support anti-illegal-logging legislation worldwide.