Friday, 3 August 2012
Liberia's hasty forest sell-off risks more conflict
More than 40% of the Upper Guinea rainforest is in Liberia. Rich, dense forest packed with rare and endangered species sprawls for hundreds of miles over the small coastal country. Sapo National Park, one of three protected areas in Liberia, contains more than 40 endangered species including the pygmy hippo, forest elephant, golden cat and western chimpanzee.
After 14 years of civil war, during which the country was stripped of roads, electricity, hospitals and schools, the revenue from logging concessions is crucial for rebuilding the country. But Global Witness has found evidence that huge swaths of land are being relinquished to logging companies without adherence to local regulations or laws. Most of this land is virgin rainforest.
Conflict timber became the main source of funding for the former president, Charles Taylor, during the war, after the UN imposed sanctions on importing Liberian diamonds in 2001. Despite this, Liberia still has an abundance of forest. Global Witness calculates that, since 2008, 2.4m hectares (5.9m acres) of the country's 4.4m hectares of forest have been granted to logging companies – around 55%.
Logging exports resumed in 2010, after a UN timber ban was lifted in 2006, and are expected to increase as dredging companies deepen the ports in Monrovia and Greenville in the south-east.
To read the rest of this article please click on this link to the Guardian's website.