World Bank plans to increase timber production in Congo threaten the environment and ignore the rights of forest dwellers.
By Jean-Roger Kaseki, March 19, 2007 9:00 AM,
In 2004, more than 100 environment, development, and human rights groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo called on the World Bank to stop plans that would carve up the world’s second-largest rainforest into industrial logging concessions.
Internal World Bank documents obtained by the Rainforest Foundation revealed that the bank intended to create a favourable climate for industrial logging in the Congo, and envisioned a 60-fold increase in the country’s timber production.
Plans for the development of the forests would have major repercussions on the rights and livelihoods of millions of Congolese citizens, with serious and irreversible impacts on the forest environment.
Covering around 1.3 million square kilometres, the rainforests of the Democratic Republic of Congo are the largest in the world after Amazonia, and have so far largely been spared extensive destruction. An estimated 35 million people live in and around these forests, including Bantu farmers, and Twa and Mbuti hunter-gatherer Pygmies.
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The Congo is the Earth’s second largest river by volume and has the world’s second largest rainforest (18% of the planet’s remaining tropical rainforest). The Congo Basin represents 70% of the African continent’s plant cover and makes up a large portion of Africa’s biodiversity with over 600 tree species and 10 000 animal species. Six nations – Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Republic of Congo, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon – share the 1.5 million square mile Congo basin.
The Congo is one of the world’s most threatened ecosystems. Commercial logging, clearing for subsistence agriculture, and widespread civil strife has devastated forests, displaced forest dwellers, and resulted in the expansion of the “bushmeat” trade. Since the 1980s, Africa has had the highest deforestation rates of any region on the globe.