Foreign loggers and corrupt officials flouting logging moratorium in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Jeremy Hance
mongabay.com
November 08, 2012



Raw logs cut with artisanal permits at Kinkole port near Kinshasa. Photo courtesy of Global Witness.
Raw logs cut with artisanal permits at Kinkole port near Kinshasa. Photo courtesy of Global Witness.

In 2002 the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) announced a moratorium on commercial logging in a bid to save rapidly falling forests, however a new report by Global Witness alleges that industrial loggers are finding a way around the logging freeze. Through unscrupulous officials, foreign companies are abusing artisanal permits—meant for local community logging—to clear-cut wide swathes of tropical forest in the country. These logging companies are often targeting an endangered tree—wenge (Millettia laurentii)—largely for buyers in China and Europe.

"The door to Congo's forests has been shut to new industrial loggers, but they are coming straight in through the window," Colin Robertson, Forest Campaigner at Global Witness said in a press release. "The artisanal permits are meant for small-scale logging by Congolese communities looking to improve their livelihoods. Instead they have been hijacked by companies who want to strip the forest bare with scant regard for the human or environmental cost."

According to DRC law, a Congolese citizen may receive two artisanal permits a year to cut trees with a chainsaw or longsaw. But Global Witness found artisanal permits that broke the law in ten different ways: in some cases 12 permits were handed out to foreign companies using bulldozer and log loaders in a single year. Some permits also outlined specific permission to "carry out industrial logging" and in many special permission was given to cut endangered species like wenge.

Equipment used by logger with artisanal license. Photo courtesy of Global Witness.
Equipment used by logger with artisanal license. Photo courtesy of Global Witness.
"Given this huge range of irregularities, timber sourced using artisanal logging permits should be considered illegal by buyers," the report says.

Such a status could mean that wood stemming from these permits is likely illegal in the U.S. under the Lacey Act and could soon be illegal in the EU as well, which is adopting new legislation to weed out wood that was illegally sourced in its country of origin.

The deforestation is occurring with official participation by the the Ministry of the Environment, Nature Conservation and Tourism (MECNT), according to Global Witness, which looked at 146 artisanal logging permits.

"The Congolese authorities have been routinely breaking their own laws when handing out these logging permits," explains Colin Robertson.

Foreign loggers are also bribing local chieftains for access to nearby forests, a practice which is problematic not least because it rarely benefits the wider community, many of which depend on their forests for vital services including food, clean water, materials, and medicine. In addition, the Congo forests provides global services such as biodiversity and carbon sequestration.

"In one instance a Sino-Congolese company, TERCO, committed to give US$750 in cash and one motorbike each to two local chiefs. In addition, one of these chiefs received two bottles of whisky, while the other opted for two cases of beer," reads the report. "Other documents show that Hong Kong based company Vegas Sawmill Factory signed a contract with the chief of Ngambomi village paying him US$15 per (Wenge) log and personal gifts including two cases of beer, a carton of cigarettes, a blanket and US$500 in cash."

Vegas Sawmill Factory, for its part, did not see such gifts as corrupt but socially acceptable in the DRC, reports Global Witness.

The NGO recommends that the prime minister accept the Decree on Community Forests, which has not been signed despite being complete for two years. In addition, the report says that the DRC's Ministry of the Environment, Nature Conservation and Tourism (MECNT) should re-evaluate its permits and refuse permits to foreigners, corporations, or anyone with heavy machinery.

Wenge, a dark-colored wood, is often used in making musical instruments. It is also used for flooring, paneling, and furniture.



Raw logs cut with artisanal permits at Kinkole port near Kinshasa. Photo courtesy of Global Witness.
Raw logs cut with artisanal permits at Kinkole port near Kinshasa. Photo courtesy of Global Witness.



Raw logs cut with artisanal permits at Kinkole port near Kinshasa. Photo courtesy of Global Witness.
Raw logs cut with artisanal permits at Kinkole port near Kinshasa. Photo courtesy of Global Witness.















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CITATION:
Jeremy Hance
mongabay.com (November 08, 2012).

Foreign loggers and corrupt officials flouting logging moratorium in the Democratic Republic of Congo .

http://news.mongabay.com/2012/1108-hance-drc-logging-corruption.html