PNG roading to bring environmental disaster - study

9:39 am on 29 July 2019

Researchers say Papua New Guinea's ambitious roading plan will bring environmental disaster to the country.

Road construction on Papua New Guinea's Highlands Highway.

Road construction on Papua New Guinea's Highlands Highway. Photo: RNZ / Johnny Blades

The country plans to nearly double the length of its roading network over the next three years, pouring billions into highways in the remote highlands.

But a study published on Wednesday in the scientific journal PLOS One says much of the construction will cut through rainforests.

It claims more than 300 kilometres of planned road will also traverse vast swathes of peatland.

The study's lead author, Mohammed Alamgir, said the government should reconsider the environmental risks.

"It's not the short-term impact it will have, but in the future if you have any uncontrolled burning or anything, you are creating a vulnerable situation for the remaining peatlands in that area."

Mohammed Alamgir said many wildlife species in PNG's rainforests would also be put at risk if peatlands were burned.

He said part of the planned roading would cut into the protected Jimi Valley national park in Western Highlands.

"This national park is a very critical habitat for a number of birds of paradise and endangered goodfellows tree kangaroo. And these wildlife are not used to with the road in their habitat, they wouldn't be able to cross the road."