Kinshasa, June 28, 2019 – Greenpeace Africa calls on the governments of the Republic of Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo to ban all industrial activity in the world’s largest tropical peat bogs, home to the Congo Basin forest. The call follows a scientific expedition of Greenpeace to the peatlands in the village of Ikenge in the Equateur province last week, which had been part of the Congopeat project.
It was confirmed by Greenpeace in 2017 that peat bogs in the Congo Basin forest contain an estimated 30.6 billion tons of carbon and cover an area of 14 million hectares, larger than that of England, and crossing both Congos.
“We know very little about how peatlands in the Congo Basin are working, and it is important for the scientific community to bridge this gap and understand how this huge carbon stock can continue to play its role in mitigating climate change”, said Dr. Greta Dargie of Leeds University.
The scientific expedition revealed the ultimate importance of peatlands in the fight against the current climate crisis and in for the rights of neighbouring communities. Decision makers of the two Congos, as well as their technical and financial partners, must take measures to preserve these ecosystems by prohibiting any large-scale activity.
Since 2018, Greenpeace Africa has repeatedly denounced the threats to these ecosystems, in particular, the forest concessions and oil explorations attributed by the DRC, as well as the petroleum exploitation tenders launched by Congo-Brazzaville.
Professor Corneille Ewango of Kisangani University explains that for peatlands to play their role, exploitative activities in their vicinity should also be avoided. “Peatlands are also affected when the surrounding lands are affected. Any large-scale industrial or agricultural activity in the peatlands or their surroundings affects the aquifer that sustains these ecosystems. “
It is imperative to preserve the peatlands since the ecological role they play is invaluable and goes beyond the economic revenues that may be generated by any type of exploitation.
Emphasising the role that the Congo Basin forest peat bogs play in the climate crisis, Greenpeace Africa also presents solutions from communities living in and around peat bogs. “The integration of local communities in peatland protection is an imperative for an effective solution. Having kept this immense carbon stock intact for centuries, governments and donors must take into account the impact of peatland destruction on the survival of the communities that depend on it,” said Greenpeace Africa Forest Campaigner Patient Muamba.
The peat bogs, estimated to be 3,000 years old, have remained intact thanks to the way of life of the local communities and indigenous peoples who live nearby. They use the peat bogs as a source of sustenance, including through fishing. Peatlands also hold vegetation and wildlife, which are essential to the survival of local communities.
It is therefore imperative to prioritise the local communities when adopting peatland protection measures. Guy Kajemba, a member of the DRC’s environmental civil society and a participant in the expedition: “There is a link between human rights and the protection of peatlands. Having historically protected peatlands without scientific knowledge, they have created an intimate and intense relationship that binds them. Communities derive all the resources they need for their survival from the peatlands, including non-timber forest products. This relationship is social, economic and cultural. It must be preserved and respected by leaving the peatlands untouched”.
Afy Malungu, Communications Officer Congo Basin Forest, Greenpeace Africa, [email protected], +243 991 521 250
Patient Muamba, Forest Campaigner, Greenpeace Africa, [email protected], +243 994 862 267