Rainforest destruction in Africa

Feature story - 11 April, 2007
The Congo rainforest is the life support system for millions of people in the 'green heart' of Africa. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) alone, 40 million people depend on the forest. Like all large intact forests, it's also crucially important for regulating the local and global climate.

Children sit on logs in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. An area of rainforest five times the size of Belgium has been allocated to the logging industry since 2002.

As the world's second largest rainforest, the Congo rainforest is also home to some of Africa's most iconic wildlife including gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos and forest elephants.

Today, we're releasing a new report, Carving Up the Congo,which exposes how international logging companies are causing socialchaos and wreaking environmental havoc. It also reveals how the WorldBank, by far the largest donor to the DRC, is failing to stop thisdestruction whilst the rainforest is being sold off under the illusionthat it will alleviate poverty in one of the poorest countries on Earth.

Ourreport shows how, in spite of a moratorium on new logging that has beenin place since 2002, over 15 million hectares of rainforest have beengranted to the logging industry - that's an area five times the size ofBelgium, and much of this is in areas that are vital for protectingbiodiversity.

Taxes paid by the companies for the rights to logthe forest should be going to local forest communities to provideessential services that those of us in developed nations take forgranted like education and healthcare. But even the World Bank admitsthat over the last three years, not a single penny paid by the loggingcompanies has reached local communities. This leaves these people notonly without the forest that provided their food, shelter and medicine,but without the benefits they had been promised.

Inexchange for timber worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, loggingcompanies are also giving communities gifts such as bags of salt andcrates of beer worth less than US$100, and make promises to buildschools and hospitals.

These promises are rarely fulfilled andthere are reports that intimidation tactics are used against people whotry to protest. We have heard stories of  people being pushed intosigning contracts (of which we have copies), even if they can't readthe French in which they are written.

Not only that, butcorruption is endemic and the local authorities are inadequatelytrained and equipped to enforce the law. Poorly paid officialssometimes have only a bicycle to help them patrol vast areas ofrainforest, making it impossible to control the industry.

Carving up the Congo - Natalia Truchi tells her story

NataliaTruchi visited the Congo in March 2007. Greenpeace organisedthe expedition to givejournalists and politicians a real insight intothe destruction and injusticerelated to the logging industry in theDemocratic Republic of theCongo. This is her story...View the story

Itsounds like bad news for the Congolese, but there is still time toprevent the destruction of the rainforest and see that alternativesolutions are developed which will really help to lift the country outof poverty.

It's not too late to prevent the destruction of thisincredible rainforest, and by putting pressure on the World Bank,that's exactly what we intend to do.

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