25 January 2009

Congo cancels logging contracts covering 13M hectares

mongabay.com, January 21, 2009

Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) canceled nearly 60 percent of the country's timber contracts following a review of 156 logging concessions granted in recent years, reports Reuters. The anti-corruption probe found that 91 deals covering nearly 13 million of hectares of forest were granted under questionable circumstances or during a moratorium on logging contracts following the 1998-2003 civil war.

The six-month review — funded by the World Bank — will allow the remaining 65 logging operations, covering nearly 10 million hectares of land to proceed.

Greenpeace, an environmental group that has been campaigning against unsustainable logging in DRC, said the review falls short.

"The results contradict the conclusions of a government-appointed technical working group, which previously recommended a reduction to 4.4 million hectares," Greenpeace said in a statement. "The review process has been widely criticized, and an Independent Observer appointed by the government at the behest of the World Bank has acknowledged that legal criteria as basic as logging within permit boundaries were not verified. A 2002 moratorium on the issuing of new logging titles was blatantly violated, and a new Forest Law introduced in 2002 has to date not been implemented."

Still the group conceded the contract cancellations were "a positive sign that the government did not yield completely to industry pressure."

DRC accounts for the bulk of the Congo Basin's forest, the second largest tropical forest in the world after the Amazon. Researchers estimate the Basin loses more than 800,000 square kilometers per year to industrial logging and agricultural expansion. Much of the region's timber is exported illegally, say environmentalists.

Copyright mongabay 2008

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