The exploitation of PNG’s natural resources and, to a lesser extent, the expansion of subsistence agriculture are adversely affecting the physical and social environment. Mining and forestry projects in particular have damaged the land and the rivers and disrupted the lives of the people. As the population grows more land is being cleared annually for subsistence agriculture, fallow periods have been shortened and in some areas soil erosion has occurred. These are matters of concern to many PNGans and PNG’s environmental legislation is considerably more comprehensive than that of most developing countries. Legislation passed by the House of Assembly in 1978 includes the Environmental Planning Act, Environmental Contaminants Act and the Conservation Areas Act. Since then these Acts have been amended to include more stringent environmental provisions and greater penalties for those who break the law.
However, the Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) has been unable to implement this legislation effectively. Problems associated with the enforcement of environmental safeguards have included the DEC’s shortage of funds and skilled labor, lack of information about projects and, in many instances, lack of support from the Ministers concerned at both national and provincial levels. In 1993 the DEC was preparing a plan for sustainable development but there is no evidence that the problems associated with the implementation of such a plan will be overcome.