Rainforests at Risk

rainforestIn our time human activity has greatly altered the original vegetation of the South Pacific by cutting the primary forests and introducing exotic species. For example, most of the plants now seen in the coastal areas of the main islands are introduced. The virgin rainforests of the world continue to disappear at the rate of 40 hectares a minute, causing erosion, silting, flooding, drought, climatic changes, and the extinction of countless life forms. The Solomon Islands and New Caledonia have been the hardest hit by commercial logging, but the forests of Vanuatu, Fiji, and Samoa are also suffering.

Locally operated portable sawmills have been promoted in Melanesia as an alternative to large-scale exploitation by foreign corporations. These low-tech sawmills can be operated by a couple of persons, and there’s a ready market for the cut lumber. Logging roads and heavy equipment are not required, and nearly 100 percent of the income remains in the community. By providing villagers with a steady income from their forests, the wokabout somils make customary landowners far less ready to sign away their timber rights to large companies that devastate the environment. It is becoming recognized that what’s needed is sustainable development rather than short-term exploitation. The creation of forest reserves and better management across the board are required.