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Congo’s forests get some relief from World Bank grant

Congo’s forests get some relief from new World Bank grant

Congo’s forests get some relief from World Bank grant
Rhett A. Butler,
December 15, 2005

Last week the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) received a $90-million grant from the World Bank to support the central African country’s transition from instability and civil war. The grant addresses key areas in DRC’s forestry sector and alleviates some of the concerns expressed by environmentalists shortly before the resolution was passed.

Green groups were distressed over a proposal to zone half the 600,000 square kilometers of forest — almost half the country’s forests — for logging.

The new World Bank grant upholds and strengthens of an existing moratorium on the awarding of new logging concessions “until such a time when a strategy for the use of DRC’s forest resources is elaborated, in consultation with all affected and potentially affected stakeholders, including indigenous people, and is duly adopted,” according to a bank statement. Further, the grant requires an independent review of the legality of all existing concessions and the publication of all concessions awarded to date.

The World Bank says these measures are expected “to help increase transparency and to promote the environmentally sustainable and socially responsible use of DRC’s forests.”

The DRC is home to the second largest rainforest in the world after Brazil. According to UN figures, forest covers about 59% of the Democratic Republic of Congo — most of which is found in the Congo Basin. The country’s economy is highly dependent on natural resource extraction — especially timber harvesting and mining. While the government has lately made overtures toward conserving its forests by backing a ban on new logging and joining a coalition of tropical nations seeking money from industrial countries for rainforest protection, its forestry sector has suffered from weak law enforcement is weak and widespread corruption. The new World Bank grant should help bolster enforcement while reducing corruption in the sector.

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