The Democratic Republic of Congo, one of the “green lungs” of the planet, is threatened by illegal logging, says Tuesday the NGO Global Witness which asks timber importing countries including France to take measures.
“It is not surprising that the law is flouted in the DRC, but it is shocking that France does so little to stop its imports of illegally harvested timber,” denounced a Jules Caron NGOofficial in a report.
The NGO claims to have investigated Norsudtimber’s activities in the DRC for two years. This Liechtenstein-based company operates forest concessions as large as Switzerland (40,000 km2) and controlled nearly 60% of the timber trade in this country in 2017, according to the NGO.
“Norsudtimber operates almost entirely illegally, in violation of the essential points of the Congolese forestry code,” writes the NGO, which reproduces satellite images tracing logging.
“78% of Norsudtimber’s timber exports went to China and Vietnam between 2013 and 2017. Europe accounts for 11%, mainly Portugal and France”, according to the NGO.
The NGO is asking the French Development Agency (AFD) to cancel an 18 million dollar programme over four years that would “go against climate and forest protection objectives” and “amount to supporting companies that emit CO2 and do not respect the law (such as Norsudtimber)”.
“For several years, this NGO has been attacking AFD for a programme designed with the Congolese authorities to improve governance in the forestry sector,” replied AFD, which was joined by AFP in Kinshasa.
The DRC is home to 60% of the Congo Basin forest, one of the last “lungs” of the planet.
The NGO Greenpeace believes that its deforestation would threaten the fight against global warming by releasing carbon dioxide stored in large quantities in the peat bogs of tropical forests.
A team of Global Witness observers was expelled from DRC in 2016 while investigating a logging site in Norsudtimber, the NGO said in its report.