Urgent action urged to safeguard world's trees

The World Bank and the World Wildlife Fund announced a five-year programme yesterday to reduce the destruction of forests by 10% annually in an attempt to combat the alarming disappearance of the world’s trees.

The World Bank and the World Wildlife Fund announced a five-year programme yesterday to reduce the destruction of forests by 10% annually in an attempt to combat the alarming disappearance of the world’s trees.

The two organisations, which established a Forest Alliance in 1998, said they would intensify their efforts to support new forest protected areas such as national parks, more effective management of already protected areas, and improved management of forests that are not yet protected.

“Ecologically and economically valuable forests in places like the boreal forests of Russia’s Far East, the lowland forests of Sumatra (in Indonesia), and the rainforests of the Amazon and the Congo are disappearing quickly to forces such as illegal or poorly regulated logging and agricultural clearing,” said Claude Marin, the World Wildlife Fund’s director-general.

In the 1990s, the deforestation rate was estimated at more than 14 million hectares per year, but 5.2 million hectares (12.8 million acres) of forest were also gained through new planting and natural expansion – leaving an annual net loss of 9.4 million hectares (23.2 million acres), according to a recent UN report.

Ken Newcombe, the World Bank’s senior manager for sustainable development, said the alliance wants to put 300 million hectares (741 million acres) under some form of improved forest management.

Gabon’s Deputy Environment Minister Alexandre Hugues Barro Chambrier urged the alliance to mobilise financing and continue supporting a treaty signed by seven Central African countries in February to help save the world’s second largest rain forest in the Congo Basin.

Tasso Rezende de Azevedo, director of Brazil’s National Forest Program, called last year’s deforestation rate in Brazil of about 2.6 million hectares (6.4 million acres) ”almost unacceptable” – but he said the increase was limited to just two states that focused on agribusiness rather than sustainable forestry.

:: Nicaragua’s President Enrique Bolanos said yesterday that he will ban logging nationwide in hopes of halting deforestation in the country.

“No type of tree will be cut for several years so that we have more rain, more rivers, abundant electrical energy, more wood, more welfare and more production,” he said during an appearance in Mina Rosita, near the Caribbean coast.

Bolanos’ announcement came a day after his attorney general and environmental prosecutor brought charges against two congressmen, a mayor and a federal comptroller related to illegal trafficking in wood.

Some analysts estimate that Nicaragua has lost about half of its forest cover since 1950.

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