World Bank Accused of Razing Congo Forests
In a scathing analysis of the bank's economic reasoning, the panel said the bank had "distorted the real economic value of the country's forests" by looking solely at the tax and revenue that increased industrial logging might generate. "There seems to have been little action to support alternative uses of the forest resources," it said.
The panel travelled deep into the forest to take evidence from the Pygmy communities, who told it they were not consulted before the bank launched its wide-ranging forestry reforms.
One Pygmy leader told the panel: "We are being made poor in every aspect ... the [logging] company prevents us from going into the forests." Another said that the company had bought the land so that people could no longer live in the forests.
"Roads are going ever deeper into the forests, opening it up. We are increasingly deprived of our foods and drugs. We have never seen anything from the bank except promises," said a third.
Research by non-government groups last year showed that 12 foreign-owned or foreign-controlled companies were encouraged by the bank to dominate the entire industry. Some had concessions of more than 5m hectares, and all included Pygmy communities in their holdings. The bank is reviewing the legality of many of these concessions.
On the same page: The Fight to Save Congo's Forests
an in depth look at what is happening from The Nation.
An estimated 40 million people depend on these woodlands, surviving on traditional livelihoods. At a global level, Congo's forests act as the planet's second lung, counterpart to the rapidly dwindling Amazon. They are a huge "carbon sink," trapping carbon that could otherwise become carbon dioxide, the main cause of global warming. The Congo Basin holds roughly 8 percent of the world's forest-based carbon. These jungles also affect rainfall across the North Atlantic. In other words, these distant forests are crucial to the future of climate stability, a bulwark against runaway climate change.
But the isolation of the DRC's woodlands is ending. Since 2003 a massive United Nations mission has helped create relative stability, though several vicious and overlapping wars continue to gnaw at the country's eastern regions. Now most of the DRC is safe for logging. Over the past four years timber firms have set upon the forest in search of high-priced hardwoods. They control about one-quarter of Congo's forests, an area the size of California.
Blessed by the World Bank as catalysts of development, the companies operate largely unsupervised because the DRC lacks a functioning system of forest control. The government has written a new forestry code that requires companies to invest in local development and follow a supposedly sustainable, twenty-five-year cycle of rotational logging. But many companies ignore these stipulations; some have used intimidation and bribery; others log in blatantly illegal ways with no regard for the long-term damage they are causing.
And now the massive mahogany, afromosia, teak and wenge trees of Congo are making their way downriver, past the lower falls and over the sea to re-emerge as parquet flooring and lawn furniture in the homes of French, Italian and Chinese yuppies.
If these woodlands are deforested, the carbon they trap will be released into the atmosphere. Environmentalists say that if deforestation continues unabated, by 2050 the DRC could release as much carbon dioxide as Britain has in the past sixty years. On the ground, this would likely mean desertification, mass migration, hunger, banditry and war.
Very long, but worth the time if one has it. Corruption doesn't stop at our shores. The damage corruption causes doesn't either.