Africa’s Massive Illegal Rainforest Giveaway
The world's second largest rainforest expanse found in the Democratic Republic of Congo is threatened by new illegal timber concession allocations. Nearly 150,000 square kilometers of forest (an area the size of England and Wales) have been allocated to timber companies within the last three years in violation of an existing “moratorium” or ban on new logging concessions.
Africa's rainforest ecosystems – vitally essential for local, regional and global ecological sustainability – are threatened by illegal logging, as are virtually all of the World's remaining large, contiguous rainforests. These rainforests provide critical habitat to indigenous, local and by virtue of their ecosystem services and biodiversity – all of the Earth's peoples and species.
Meanwhile WWF, and even Greenpeace and Rainforest Action Network, advocate misguided policies to log many if not most of the Earth's ancient forests in an “environmentally sustainable” manner. Environmentally sustainable ancient forest logging is perhaps the ultimate oxymoron. Natural rainforest management in an ecologically sustainable manner is impossible. Once logged ancient forests are no longer primary forests, and they enter a period of permanent and ultimately fatal decline.
Mainstream and even “radical” NGOS must clarify and alter their positions regarding industrial logging of large ancient forests if these planetary species and ecosystem powerhouses are to have more of a future than becoming tree farms. The forest conservation movement must commit to ecologically sustainable, and socially equitable and just, rainforest conservation, not merely what is possible and brings superficial, inadequate and impermanent “protections”. Half-baked reforms will not save forests or the Earth in an age of ecological meltdown.
Further, if Africa's rainforests are to have a future, it is imperative that the World Bank – which strives so hard to position itself as a rainforest policy-making leader – use its political and economic power to ensure forest policies are followed as a condition for economic assistance. If they are unwilling to make a stand for a non-industrial logging rainforest paradigm – based upon locally acceptable protection and community based eco-forestry, discontinuing forest and other lending because of the government's failed logging moratorium – they should step aside.
There will be little hope of the Congo achieving political stability, poverty alleviation and environmental sustainability if their sacred rainforests are squandered. Sadly ill-conceived, misguided rainforest conservation policies of the type espoused by WWF and the World Bank are one of the biggest threats to large ancient rainforests worldwide.
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9th November 2005
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
AFRICA'S RAINFORESTS FOR THE CHOP IN WORLD'S BIGGEST ILLEGAL GIVEAWAY
New information obtained by the Rainforest Foundation shows that vast areas of the world's second largest rainforest – in the Democratic Republic of Congo – are being handed out illegally to timber companies by the Congolese government.
Official information published yesterday reveals that nearly 150,000 square kilometres of forest (an area the size of England and Wales) has been allocated to timber companies within the last three years, mostly during 2005 . The opening up of new areas of rainforest for timber felling has been illegal in the Congo since May 2002 .
Last week, the President of Congo signed a decree re-stating the moratorium on new logging activities, but the new information shows that the existing ban has been completely ineffective.
In December, the World Bank will consider approving a new credit of $90 million to the Congolese government, some of it to finance new forestry activities.
Simon Counsell, Director of the Rainforest Foundation, said: “The Rainforest Foundation has been warning for several years that the timber industry in Congo is about to spiral out of control, and that international pressure should be brought to bear on the Congolese authorities to stop the handing out of vast concessions to logging companies. The Congolese government has acted in defiance of its own laws, and is set on a course that could have disastrous consequences for the many millions of people, as well as the wildlife, that are dependent on the country's forests. The World Bank should make it a strict condition of any new funding for forestry in DRC that all the illegally allocated concessions are immediately cancelled”.
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Notes to editors:
 The information was published on November 8th as a list of all logging concession areas in a 'Communique de Presse' issued by the Congolese Ministries of the Environment and Finance. The list shows that 103 'concessions' have been handed to logging companies since the May 2002 logging moratorium, covering 147,526 square kilometres. A copy of the list is available for inspection.
 The logging 'moratorium' was established through ' Ministerial Arr