â€‹DR Congo threatens to open its rainforest to new industrial loggers
The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is considering re-opening its forest to new logging companies. A rainforest more than twice the size of France is at risk of being cut down.
This comes at a time when the governments of Norway, France, Germany, the UK, and the European Union, are assessing whether to support a billion-dollar plan proposed by the DRC government to protect the country's 1.55 million square kilometers of forests.
A coalition of environmental and anti-corruption organizations is calling on the DRC government to maintain its moratorium on the allocation of new logging licenses, which has been in place since 2002.
â€“ The large-scale logging of DRCâ€™s rainforest was and is a disaster. It not only harms the countryâ€™s environment, but also fuels corruption and creates social and economic havoc, said IrĂ¨ne Wabiwa Betoko of Greenpeace Africa.
Undermines commitment to emissions reduction
â€“ At a time when the global community is working together to protect the worldâ€™s last rainforests, a vital defense against climate change, the DRC government seems to be undermining the commitment to reducing emissions that it presented in Paris, said Lars LĂ¸vold of Rainforest Foundation Norway (RFN).
The rainforest in The Democratic Republic of Congo
- The rainforest of the Congo Basin is home to 600 different species of trees and about 10.000 animal species. The area stores 8 per cent of all the carbon present in the worldâ€™s forests.
- 90 million people live in this region and are dependent on the rainforest.
- In DR Congo alone, some 40 million of the countryâ€™s 70 million inhabitants depend on the rainforest for their livelihood.
- DR Congo is also home to 2 million indigenous people, a group collectively known as Pygmies.
The DRC Environment Minister Robert Bopolo Bogeza recently stated
that measures are being undertaken to lift moratorium on the allocation
of new logging licenses, while outlining his priorities for 2016,
citing the financial benefits this could bring.
â€“ The argument that logging can significantly contribute to government revenues is completely unfounded. Around a tenth of the DRCâ€™s rainforest is already being logged. And yet, in 2014 the country obtained a pitiful USD8 million in fiscal revenues from the sector â€“ the equivalent of about 12 cents for every Congolese person, said Joesph Bobia of RĂ©seau Ressources Naturelles (RRN).
Long-term negative impacts
Simon Counsell of the Rainforest Foundation UK said that the expansion of industrial logging in Congoâ€™s rainforests is likely to have serious long-term negative impacts on the millions of people living in and depending on those forests.
â€“ We urge the government of DRC to instead promote community based forest protection and alternatives to logging that will help the countryâ€™s population prosper, he said.
Reducing Emissions through Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) is an international effort under the UN climate treaties to combat carbon emissions by protecting the worldâ€™s forests. DRCâ€™s national strategy for REDD has been under negotiation for six years and will be submitted to international donor governments for approval this year.
â€“We call upon the DRC government to keep the present logging moratorium in place, Ms Wabiwa Betoko concluded.
Important and diverse area
The moratorium on the allocation of new logging titles was issued by Ministerial decree in 2002, in an attempt to regain control of the countryâ€™s timber industry, which was riddled with illegal logging and corruption, which came at a significant social and environmental cost.
DRCâ€™s forest accounts for around one tenth of the worldâ€™s remaining tropical rainforests.
Many species, such as the bonobo and okapi, are only found in these ecosystems. Some 40 million people in the country rely on these forests for their livelihoods, including food and fuel.