- Environmentalists have called for urgent action to enforce decisions that will protect Congo’s remaining forests.
Reacting to reports of today that the Congolese government had confirmed 65 contracts covering 10 million hectares, Greenpeace dismissed the decision saying its was contradictory to the review results.
"The results contradict the conclusions of a government-appointed technical working group, which previously recommended a reduction to 4.4 million hectares," the group said today in a statement.
Today’s announcement is said to have come after the government examined a series of appeals from logging companies whose contracts were to be cancelled. 19 out of 87 appeals are said to have been successful.
“It is a positive sign that the government did not yield completely to industry pressure. The contract cancellations now need to be implemented. We hope that the Congolese government will focus on protecting our forests and on putting in place a participatory national land use plan” said René Ngongo - Forest Policy Advisor for Greenpeace Africa. “Hopefully, the cancellation of the rejected logging contracts will create momentum to develop alternatives to industrial logging. However, the government must not yield to the delaying tactics of the forest industry, which is using the current international financial crisis to demand the elimination of taxes in the DRC, thus undermining agreed efforts to clean up the forest sector.”
Greenpeace also warned that many challenges still remained, in particular pointing to the weak governance in the DRC and the lack of control in the forestry sector. “It is unclear how the government will enforce the cancellations of contracts in the field, and how the operations of the approved logging concessions will be controlled,” explained Ms Ngongo.
The review process has been widely criticised, and an Independent Observer appointed by the government at the behest of the World Bank has acknowledged that legal criteria as basic as logging within permit boundaries were not verified.
According to Greenpeace, a 2002 moratorium on the issuing of new logging titles was blatantly violated, and a new Forest Law introduced in 2002 has to date not been implemented, adding that multinationals have obtained hundreds of thousands of hectares of forests under the pretext of “re-mapping” and “relocating” old permits.
Greenpeace urged the DRC government to maintain the moratorium on the allocation of new forest concessions until a national participatory land-use plan has been completed and meaningful forest governance is in place.
"Local communities are angry and disappointed because giant trees are taken from their forests and nothing but destruction is left behind. The people of Africa stand to lose the most from climate impacts. The government needs to save the Congo forest not only for the sake of the global climate, but for the benefit of the Congolese people who depend on it and who are suffering from its continued plunder," the group concluded in a statement.
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