Environment Livelihoods

The second world’s largest rainforest to reopen to large-scale industrial logging

The second world’s largest rainforest after the Amazon is set to reopen to large-scale industrial logging after lifting the long-standing moratorium on industrial logging permits.

The logging moratorium was established in 2002 to protect the forest following decades of dictatorship and civil war

The Congo rainforest is the second-largest in the world after the Amazon and plays an essential role in storing Earth’s carbon emissions.

The congo rainforest covers roughly 60 percent of the DRC and makes up two-thirds of the Congo Basin. 

Congo forest, the second world’s largest rainforest

The rainforest plays a central role in the planet’s ecological balance across the African continent and absorbs more carbon than it emits.

According to a recent study, Congo Basin trees store a third more carbon per unit area compared to the Amazon rainforest.

The DR Congo government is finalizing an ambitious and risky new plan for the future management of its rainforest. The news was revealed by Eve Bazaiba, the Environment, and Vice Prime Minister in an interview with National Geographic.

The new strategy will lift the long-standing moratorium on new industrial logging permits.

The move will allow large-scale industrial logging on the DR Congo rainforests. 

Eve Bazaiba said the move is part of a wider program to manage the forests. She adds that the moratorium put in place nearly 20 years ago was a temporary measure and cannot remain indefinitely.

The lifting will not approve new logging projects for the time being. She added.

“When I speak of removing the ban, people say, ‘It’s over, Congo will award concessions to whoever.’ It’s not true,” Bazaiba says.

The moratorium is being replaced with stronger, permanent measures for the protection and sustainable management of the forest, including the expansion of protected areas. She said.

The plan will become law ahead of COP26. It is bringing up deeply entrenched disagreements over the safeguarding of the rainforest which largest in Africa.

The DRC government is seeking $1 billion ahead of COP26 for forest protection from the Central African Forest Initiative (CAFI). CAFI is a coalition of donors from Norway, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom.

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The move has had mixed feelings from environmental defenders and experts.

Laurence Duprat, a senior campaign advisor at environmental nonprofit Global Witness, holds the DRC should not allow logging until it has a land-use plan that is enforceable. 

Opening the forest to industrial loggers before then “would be a disaster for the rainforest and its inhabitants,” she says.

Lifting the ban will allow the government to award new contracts to industrial logging companies and could potentially open up as much as 70 million hectares of virgin forest. 

In addition, more than half the primary forests in the DRC will be opened to logging.

Between 2001 and 2020, DRC lost some 15.9 million hectares of tree cover, about 8 percent according to Global Forest Watch.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo struggles with poor infrastructure, a primarily informal economy, and weak institutions due to a history of civil unrest. 

Less than a quarter of the DRC’s population has access to electricity. Urban demand for charcoal, burning forests for agriculture, and high demand for timber for construction have fueled deforestation.

From 2015 to 2019 the rate of deforestation doubled. According to Global Forest Watch, The current rate, 30 percent loss of the rainforest will have disappeared by 2030 and all primary forests could be razed by 2100.

The hurdle facing the government to safeguard the rainforest is daunting, and authorities lack the resources to monitor what’s happening on the ground. Controllers constitute a small, poorly paid workforce with few means of transportation.

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