quarta-feira, 31 de agosto de 2016

Mozambique faces race against time to end illegal logging

The southern African country is losing millions in lost taxes from illegal logging, much of it destined for China

“We are cleaning the house now”, says Celso Correia. The young, smartly-dressed, minister for land, environment and rural development in Mozambique is talking about the corruption and illegal logging that has dogged the southern African country’s timber sector for more than a decade.
As recently as 2013, a remarkable 93% of of all the logging taking place in the country was happening illegally, according to a report from the nonprofit Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA).
As well as leading to unsustainable levels of deforestation, the export of illegally logged timber was also depriving the country of tens of millions of dollars a year in lost tax revenue.
The driving force behind this boom in illegal logging was China, the biggest importer of logs in the world. Chinese traders accounted for more than 90% of Mozambique’s timber exports in 2013, according to the environmental research organisation IIED. In 2014 Mozambican wood entering China surpassed $400m, up from $90m in 2009, according to the Africa Monitor (paywall).
Correia, who started in his job in the newly created environment department last year, acknowledges his country is a stark example of what happens when insatiable demand for logs, in this case from China, converges with weak law enforcement and corruption. His ambition is to change that.
“We have seized more illegal wood in one year than Mozambique has since independence in 1992,” he says. “We are passing a new forestry law and a new conservation law.”
Correia and Mozambique’s long-term ambition is to develop a more sustainable timber market in the country, including developing a larger processing industry in the country rather than just exporting the logs. “We don’t mind people cutting trees. We need to have a sustainable forest and we need to have a market,” he says.
In Gile National Reserve, situated in Zambezia Province, such measures are desperately needed. A total of 35 logging licences created a huge circle of harvested land around the reserve boundary for the 2,980km squared of protected area. After years of logging in the country, the reserve is the last area where Pau Ferro, a highly sought-after wood, still exists in Mozambique.
Gile National Reserve attracts few tourists but an alarming number of illegal loggers, according to the warden Jose Dias. Since 2012, his team has captured a total of 58 trucks and 10 tractors packed with Pau Ferro from the reserve. He told me, “the majority of illegal acts are not detected". More...

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