General Overview and Considerations of the Kulu-Dagi and Inland Kove Oil Palm Project, the likely potential environmental impacts, West New Britain Province.

By:Stephen Keu, Environmental Planner

(Presently, Masters student in Environmental Sciences & landscape Architecture, Faculty of Horticulture, Graduate School of Sciences Technology, Matsudo Campus Chiba University Japan),



The West New Britain Provincial Government, through the New Britain Oil Palm Limited has embarked on a large scale Oil palm plantation development within the Kulu -Dagi and inland Kove areas. Approval to proceed with the Oil Palm development scheme in the above two areas was granted by the National Executive Council on 1st July, 1998. The KDIK project utilizes unused customary land upstream of the Kulu and Daliavu rivers. An approximate area of 12-16,000 hectares of oil palm (as nucleus estates) are to be developed and owned by NBPOL and a further 2-4,000 hectares form a village oil palm scheme for indigenous growers.

The plantation area lies adjacent to the proposed Kimbe-Gloucester highway, approximately one kilometer from the populated coastline. However, the indigenous tribes who owned land within the two areas are Bakovi and Kove people. Both tribes received the project with mixed feelings in that many showed their support while others were undecided for various reasons. The WNB Provincial Government foresees the project as a driving force behind development of the remote parts of West New Britain specifically the Kove, Kaliai, Bariai and Gloucester areas. These areas are remote from the main town of Kimbe and have, for many years lacked major infrastructural development such as adequate road systems, wharves , proper school buildings, and much more. The proposed project as perceived by all will enhance basic socio-economic activities within the communities and at the same time will form the basis of revenue for the people. On the whole the project was viewed positively for economic reasons. However, an oil palm project of such a magnitude must be taken on with a lot of scrutiny, discussions and deliberations due to environmental consideration which are often referred to as negligible..

Oil Palm developmental activities on the whole generate perceived environmental impacts, both positive and negative and are of various sorts such as, loss of land to indigenous people, loss of bio-diversity, water and river pollution, sedimentation and soil compaction. As such all aspects of the project must be thoroughly analyzed at the project planning phase. A comprehensive consultation process with the landowners must be taken to avoid future landowner issues and mishaps. Environmental considerations such as pollution and contamination will be issues new to the local people but may emerge into a core issue for compensation claims in the future. Therefore, both the National and Provincial Governments must take into account all the likely environmental issues with the local people at the initial stages of the project's development through enhanced education and awareness programs for all communities in this area prior to the project's implementation.

This paper is written basically to share some of my thoughts and experiences with major projects such as that of Mining and Forestry projects, their arrangement and how landowner issues were arranged and catered for in agreements.


This paper is written as an information base for the Kulu/Dagi and Inland Kove Oil Palm project working committee and the Kove people. It is aimed at informing the above parties and the West New Britain Provincial Government and its Department to ensure a more meaningful consideration is taken to address landowner issues with the Inland Kove Development project. This paper will place emphasis on the consultation process with the landowners prior to the actual implementation of the project. Landowners' information is a vital tool for the betterment of the project as has been the case in many major projects in PNG. At the same time, as a secondary objective of this paper, the writer wishes to share some of his experiences relating to environmental issues in major projects such as that of the proposed one with the people of Kove, the West New Britain Provincial government and the Department of West New Britain.

Having hailed from that part of the province and now working as an Environmental Co-ordinator for the Lihir Gold project, I wish to share some of my experiences particularly in the areas of environmental concerns, project arrangements and issues relating to Landowners.

2.0 Environmental implications of Oil Palm project.

Oil Palm projects as we all know, when established will undoubtedly require more land areas and will remain for ages. It is an ongoing project which will make a permanent change on the environment. Something many authorities consider to be "sustainable" in a way. However, various aspects of environmental issues need to be addressed fully by the Government (both Provincial and National Government) and any intended developers of the project. It is absolutely necessary that professional views on the likely environmental effects must be sought from various experts and made known to the local communities who are or may be directly or indirectly affected in the event of the project's implementation.

It is appropriate in this respect to engage reputable experts who could conduct research and study into forming the baseline information prior to the development of the project. An on going Environmental Management and Monitoring of the project during construction phase, operational phase needs to be actively carried out by the Government and the project's developer. The cost of hiring these experts must be borne by the intended project developer and this must be arranged by both National and Provincial Government.

On the other hand the local indigenous people must be continuously be informed through enhanced awareness programs possibly developed by the department of West New Britain staff, on the likely impacts of this oil palm project on them. Social issues that are likely to arise in times of the project execution need special attention by all parties concerned with the projects development and addressed through the West New Britain Department.

2.1 Oil Palm Code of Practice

Adherence to the requirements of this Code of Practice is a must and shall be exercised at all cost by the project developers. The project developer must ensure the code is meaningfully applied in the field to protect the river systems of the Kove people. The people must be told of the existence of the code through the governments and the proposed developers.

Effects of Oil Palm Industry on River Systems and associated reef systems are quite foreign to the Land Managers. The Kove people particularly live on the coastal fringes of New Britain Island and depend on the streams and river systems which originate from the inland parts of the Island. Most of the river catchment areas and headwaters will be affected and thus continuous pollution will be experienced by the people. The normal livelihood and enjoyment by the people of their natural environment and water bodies will be changed and simultaneously hardship will be encountered.

River systems will be greatly affected through siltation, sediment run-off and eutrophication during construction and operations. The Kove people mostly live on coast and depend on the river system for transport, fishing, recreation and other amenities. All these rivers drained from inland areas where the project operations will be situated. The downstream effects of the operation will undoubtedly affect the livelihood of the people where more indirect impacts will arise. Temperature in rivers and streams will obviously be increased when land is extensively cleared. Water catchment areas are susceptible to destruction which could lead to drying up of creeks. There will be increase in the amount of pollutants entering the river systems which will eventually displace aquatic flora and fauna and destroy their breeding grounds. All these environmental components affect the daily necessities of the local people which they depend on for nutritional uptake. The river ecosystems may be greatly upset and adjacent areas become prone to excessive flooding. This again will affect the daily living of the people.

These issues must be addressed fully by the project developers and the government and landowners should be told in simple terms all the likely negative impacts of the project on them.


2.2 Effects of Oil Palm Industry on Marine and Coastal Environment.

Traditionally, the Kove people perceive fishing as an activity which provides a subsistence food source. Fishing is a regular activity for the people of Kove and the implementation of the Oil Palm Project will undoubtedly have a major effect on the coral reef systems. This is an indirect effect of the project which might be overlooked because the science is quite foreign to many Land Managers. It is apparent that the effects on the coral reef systems and fringing reefs has a direct link to activities on land. Sedimentation, siltation , all end up through the river system in the seas and ocean where they kill the reefs. The issues here must be treated with due seriousness by all parties involved with the project and addressed fully in agreements


3.0 Issues relating to landownership and rights .

The West New Britain provincial government through its departments must ensure all aspects of the project are made known and must be understood by the villagers to avoid future exaggerated landowners' problems. Consultation process with the landowners is a vital aspect of the project development and must be done on a regular basis through arranged village outreach programs. Despite all economic benefits derived from the project, there are other extremely sensitive environmental issues which would be used by the landowners as a way to obtain compensation. The land, on the other hand, is wholly owned customarily by the people and they have the ultimate say in any form of dealings or arrangements the government is undertaking. The project must not be rushed until all positive and negative impacts are identified and landowners are adequately informed. This is important to avoid future confusion and unnecessary compensation claims.


3.1 Learning from the past mistakes

The West New Britain Provincial government and the Kove people must learn from previous mistakes where many unsuccessful projects were not sustainable, particularly in the forestry sector. A typical example of this is the Kapuluk Timbers which had left nothing better than many degraded sites and pollution or environmental scars for the landowners to regret. This is an extremely sad scenario for the people of Kove who gained nothing out of the past attitude of governments who did not conduct thorough assessments of the project prior to its development. It is vital that the West New Britain Provincial Government must learn from the Lihir gold projects agreement where all aspects of the project have been fully accounted for and most importantly issues relating to the landowner concerns..


4.0 Legal Requirements/West New Britain Provincial Government

Due to the present state of agricultural development in the West New Britain Province, the provincial government must bring into force its own environmental legislation which can geared to protecting the livelihood of the indigenous people. This, in my view, would be an advantage to control effectively from the ground level all physical operations and activities which could cause harm to the receiving environment. The Oil Palm Industry has an approved an Oil Palm code of practice which can be used as a base for good environmental practice during the time the project is in operation. The West New Britain provincial government could adopt fully and also ensure that its personnel is adequately trained to manage the operation of this code of practice.


5.0 Agreements, compensation and landowners benefit packages.

5.1 Compensation principles

The compensation should be an encompassing issue, and should be addressed in a comprehensive way. This will be and important approach the landowners will adopt. Accordingly, it is my view that the compensation must be addressed in the following manner;

a) Destruction

This category refers to the payment made to individual and landowner groups for disturbances, damages, use of land and use of materials;

The relocation and lands, crops, water and air agreements provide the basis for the compensation payable under this category.

b) Development

Facilities, programs, projects and other assistance which are provided for the people as the result of the Oil Palm Development operations.

The following agreement needs to be considered in this regard;

Tri partite agreements between the landowners Kuludagi-Kove Development Authority and Landowners) the national government and the West New Britain Provincial Government. These agreements, (in whatever form they end up), will deal with the distribution of royalties, Special Support Grants, the provision of in frastructure to West New Britain and Kove, other development support from the national and provincial governments; Therefore, the formation of KOVE & KULU-DAGI DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY to managed by a well set management system and Machinery.

The NBPOL commitment to community development programs to be implemented through the Kove and Kuludagi local level government.

c) Security

The people and their future generations will lose much of their land and resources through the permanent changes done to their environment and will not enjoy much of their environment any longer. Because of this inconvenience to them a trust fund should be set up to provide benefits for community services, facilities and human development programs in the long run.

5.2 Compensation for the loss of vital resources.

Much of the local villagers resources will be removed or destroyed during the construction of the project. The Kove people are still continuing to live on subsistence gardening as well as depend very much on the environment for daily living. They use forest trees for buildings, making canoes, carvings, as a food source, and for recreation and firewood. Nevertheless, the government and the project developer will benefit from the project as the greatest recipients while the land owners will lose a great deal of their resources. Therefore due to the likely inconvenience caused the people in this regard an appropriate payments must be settled to compensate for the loss they in incurred in terms of their environment being destroyed. This, I expect will be the position the local landowners would opt for and may prepare compensation through agreements. It is my personal view that this will be in line with the requirements of the Water Resources Act which calls for compensation for inconvenience caused to local landowners water ways. While the government may discourage compensation demands in terms of environment it is important to address the issue of water in the early stage of the project and necessary instruments are drawn to accommodate landowner issue relating to water. "Water will be the core environmental compensation issue for the people in the long run and must be addressed fully and promptly by the government. The new Environment Act specifically spells out the rights of the owners and occupiers of land in which a permit holder is conducting it's operations. The landowners obviously are entitled to compensation and must be paid for the deprivation of the use and enjoyment of the surface of the land or any part of it, or rights to water customarily associated with the land.

Benefit Packages must be integrated and included in the Agreement.for all environmental components. The benefit package will cover series of agreements which presents compensation provisions provided to the people as a result of the projects inconveniences on them.

"Please note that this paper only represent my personal views and must be treated as information base only. It must not be adopted or copied for any other purposes".

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