A Highway Megaproject Tears at the Heart of New Guinea’s Rainforest
main text by William Laurance at e360.yale.edu/featu…. illustrations and #FreeWestPapua info added…. The Indonesian government is building a 2,700-mile road network on the island of New Guinea, opening up some of the world’s last great tropical rainforests to development and threatening unique indigenous cultures. Can international pressure force Indonesia to scale back this megaproject?
The Pacific island of New Guinea, which harbors one of the world’s largest and most intact tropical rainforests, is the epicenter of Australasia’s tropical biodiversity. The island’s unique denizens, including tree-kangaroos and birds of paradise, are representative of a regional flora and fauna so fantastically diverse that Charles Darwin once mused such creatures must have been made by a “separate Creator.” Today, researchers are still merely sampling its primeval intricacies.
New Guinea is also among the most culturally and linguistically diverse places on earth, with human populations that are genetically distinct from all others alive today. Not until the 1930s did the Western world discover many hundreds of unique indigenous societies in New Guinea’s vast mountains and highlands. And only in the 1950s did European colonists, miners, and loggers begin to exploit the region.
Today, these unique rainforests are being carved up by a massive, ill-advised, and exceptionally risky road-building scheme. The Trans-Papua Highway will sprawl like a massive spiderweb over much of the Indonesian-ruled, western half of New Guinea, known as Papua or West Papua.
Totalling 2,700 miles in length, this highway network will penetrate deeply into densely forested or remote mountainous regions to increase access to minerals, fossil fuels, timber, and land for agri-business ventures, including vast palm oil plantations. Many road segments will traverse precariously steep, virgin terrain. Continue reading “#FreeWestPapua: Trans-Papua Highway.. Ecocide and Genocide for Quick Cash $$”