Study's claims that deforestation threat to Congo Basin is diminishing are 'seriously misleading,' says Global Witness, says world's second largest rainforest is losing 2,000 km2/year, expects rate to accelerate when logging freeze is lifted

LONDON , July 22, 2013 (press release) – Claims that the deforestation threat to the Congo Basin is diminishing are seriously misleading, said Global Witness today.

A new study published in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society states that deforestation has slowed as “controlled timber management” schemes have taken effect and agricultural expansion into forests has slowed. There is little evidence to back up such claims, while the study ignores threats from the expansion of illegal logging operations, large-scale agricultural investments and palm oil plantations.

“This is a shortsighted and misleading study. The world’s second largest rainforest is losing 2000 square km - an area 34 times the size of Manhattan - every year. This is totally unsustainable, and it’s set to get worse. When the Democratic Republic of Congo‘s freeze on new logging is lifted and the forest has been parcelled up for different commercial uses, we’ll see much more deforestation. The idea that things are moving in the right direction is ludicrous,” said Alexandra Pardal of Global Witness.

Likewise, the report’s claims that a downturn in the rate of deforestation can be attributed to better management of the region’s forests do not bear scrutiny.

“This study talks breathlessly about the effectiveness of sustainable timber management schemes, but where is the evidence? Independent reports corroborate Global Witness findings that illegality, corruption and over-exploitation are endemic to Congo Basin logging, and even the Democratic Republic of Congo’s own agricultural minister likened his country’s forest sector to “the Wild West” recently. The planet needs these forests to survive, so we should be looking for ways to protect them, not celebrating killing them off a little more slowly,” said Pardal.

In March, the EU passed legislation to stem the flow of illegally harvested timber into the region. Investigations by Global Witness found illegally felled logs from Liberia in ports in France shortly before the ban came in, underlining the need for companies to to carry out checks on their supply chain and avoid possible criminal penalties.

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