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Forests - Congo

Causes of deforestation

The current causes of deforestation in the Congo region largely stem from poverty. For example, a long-running civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo ended recently and there are plans to expand the timber industry as one way of reviving the economy. With the support of the World Bank, a Forest Code has been drawn up which proposes to divide the forest into areas for logging, conservation and community use. The World Bank has anticipated an area of 60 million hectares, or about the size of France, will be available for logging. Timber production will increase to 6–10 million cubic metres a year: previously it has been a small percentage of this amount. The UN and the FAO are also involved.

Cameroon was the first country in the Congo basin to implement a timber industry development program in 1994 and not long afterwards a number of Malaysian and Thai timber companies began to invest in producing timber there or buying the logs. Gabon is very large exporter of logs and most sales are to China and Japan. Malaysian companies are also active here and in Equatorial Guinea.

Mining has also led to more damage to the forests e.g. the search for coltan [columbite-tantalite] in the eastern part of the Congo Democratic Republic. Coltan was fetching very high prices: it is used in the manufacture of mobile phones.

However, few if any governments of countries within the Congo Basin have the resources and structures needed to prevent transgressions of illegal loggers, miners and hunters in protected areas of forests.

Wars have also brought damage. For example invading Rwandan forces in the eastern Congo are believed to have killed wildlife for food and to have driven civilian populations into the forest, where they are forced to hunt to keep themselves alive.

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