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West Santo says NO to logging and road proposal

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Community leaders and people from west Santo have united in a protest to protect their forests against a logging and road construction proposal by the Vanuatu Forest Industry Limited, a Chinese-funded company.

They expressed strong disagreement to the proposal through a campaign led by the Santo Sunset Environment Network (SSEN), an indigenous environment Non-Government Organisation (NGO) set up to protect West Coast Santo Mountain Chain, home to Vanuatu’s largest biodiversity hotspot.

“We do not need a logging company that will destroy our place and biodiversity,” the Chairman of SSEN, Allan Taman, said in a video posted on SSEN Facebook Page.

“This logging proposal must be stopped. It will destroy natural habits in our environment. Some of our trees will disappeared and our future generation would not be able to know them, said Daniel Saul, a chief from Vasalea village.

“We have seen logging impacts on the environment in other places. Our rivers will dry up if we cut down our trees. I don’t accept the company coming to our area,” said SSEN’s Coordinator, Benua Jamu.

“Our community will suffer if we allow logging to happen. I don’t agree to logging,” said Tarsolui Richard from Tanokovo village.

“As a youth, I’m not happy about this proposal. Logging will affect my future,” said Yannick Benua from Elia village.

“I don’t want any logging activities happening in my community. We have a conservation area, I don’t want to see us selling our land, accepting logging or even mining,” Barex Laban from Wusi village stressed.

Chief Lency Rovo from the Jarai Alo Kolo Council of Chiefs said: “We have our custom sites which we want to preserve and not destroy. I and other member chiefs do not agree to the company coming over.”

According to a statement from SSEN, a contract prepared by Vanuatu Forest Industry Limited leaked to SSEN, represents a serious threat to indigenous land stewards as the rightful owners of natural resources.

“The contract gives the logging company ownership of all the timber and is free to use for any purpose... can dispose of them at will and can...profit from disposal proceeds.

“It was circulated amongst local chiefs by a paid agent of the company, without telling landowners that the road they have proposed to build comes as the price of their timber.

“Elsewhere in the Pacific, logging companies have offered to build roads in exchange for timber and have devastated vast areas of land in the exploitation of resources.”

The Daily Post approached the Department of Forestry on Thursday this week to seek response from the Director Rexon Viranamaga on the concerns from the locals and mainly the licensing of the company but he declined.

He told the receptionist to convey that he would not be available for comment yesterday also.

Spokesperson of the company said they got approval from the ministry responsible for the proposal and Sanma Provincial Council is also aware of it.

The company will connect all villages in west coast Santo through the proposed road, which is the main component of the proposal, he said.

He added that they are yet to finalise the operation plan and carry out consultation with land landowners and communities.

Source: Vanuatu Daily Post

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