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Illegal Carve-up of Congo Rainforests

Greenpeace - February 26, 2007

The second largest rainforest in the world -- after the Amazon -- sits in the Congo basin of Africa. Around 21 million hectares (over 51 million acres) of this pristine forest are being illegally logged. We've released new evidence of the extent of this forest crime.

A logger takes a break in the Democratic Republic of Congo. More than 
21 million hectares of rainforest are now allocated to the logging 
industry, an area nearly seven times the size of Belgium.

The Congo Government introduced a moratorium in 2002 forbidding the allocation, extension and renewal of logging titles.  But despite the original moratorium being reaffirmed by Presidential decree, it has been widely ignored. We are demanding that the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the World Bank, and other stakeholders take urgent action to stop the expansion of the logging industry in Congo's rainforests, and to fund alternatives to deforestation.

The Congo Rainforest is a critical habitat for the endangered bonobo (a relative of the chimpanzee) and other threatened species such as the forest elephant and the hippopotamus. It is considered to be a priority region for conservation, and is also home to numerous communities of the Twa and Bantu ethnic groups.

A bonobo swings on a tree in a bonobo sanctuary. Bonobos were the last of the great apes to be discovered. They live exclusively in the Democratic Republic of Congo. They are considered to be man's closest relative and organise themselves in sophisticated social groups. They are highly endangered from hunting and loss of habitat.

Greenpeace is highlighting one company which has breached the 2002 moratorium. ITB (Industrie de Transformation de Bois) is actively logging in the region of Lac Tumba, with two logging permits covering 294,000 hectares (726,489 acres) of forests. Both permits were issued after the moratorium was enacted. ITB logs with no forest management plan as it extracts high value species such as Wenge for export to the European market.

Delegates from the Congolese Government, donor community and civil society will meet next week in Brussels to discuss the sustainable management of the forests of the DRC. Greenpeace is demanding that all forest titles allocated by the government -- in breach of its own moratorium -- are cancelled.  This would include ITB's. We want an ongoing legal review of all logging titles and an extension of the moratorium until comprehensive land-use planning and sufficient governance capacity is in place in the DRC forest sector.

"Logging companies promise us wonders: work, schools, hospitals, but actually, they seem to be only interested in their own short term profits. What will happen when our forests have been emptied? They will leave and we'll be the ones left with damaged roads, schools with no roofs and hospitals without medicine," said Pasteur Matthieu Yela Bonketo, coordinator of CEDEN, a Congolese NGO active in Equateur province who will be in Brussels for next week's conference. "Industrial logging doesn't bring benefits. The Twa and Bantu people who totally depend on our forests and the local communities who live in them are suffering because of the presence of the industry," he concluded.

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