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LOCAL STRUGGLES AND NEWS
In last month's issue of the WRM bulletin we quoted activist Karl Ammann's open letter to World Bank's President Wolfensohn --wrongly attributed to Jane Dewar-- in which he denounces that World Bank assistance to massive reactivation of the forestry sector would imply new logging concessions in primary rainforests with the subsequent detrimental impact on the environment and the people. (the ammended article is available at: http://www.wrm.org.uy/bulletin/67/AF.html#Congo )
World Bank's Country Director for the Africa Region Emmanuel Mbi, responded to Ammann, who in turn replied with a letter dated February 24, 2003. In his letter Ammann confirms that, contrary to Mr. Mbi's arguments, all the evidence he has gathered on the ground suggests that the Aide Memoire of the World Bank is indeed an advise on how to reactivate the forestry sector.
Ammann refers to a recent visit to Kinshasa, where he talked to logging industry representatives who told him that they had confronted Mr. Deboux --the Bank's lead negotiator and advisor, and author of the Aide Memoire-- with the fact that the present infrastructure, from the port in Kinshasa to the road to Matadi, would not even allow the export of a small fraction of the proposed timber production rate of 6-10 million cubic meters, and that "it would be up to the Bank to find the ways and means to improve the corresponding facilities." "If indeed the Bank is considering to upgrade the Kinshasa port or roads which lead to Matadi and other localities, how will they differentiate between the 'sustainably logged timber' making its way to the sea and the illegal and unsustainably logged wood?" Ammann quotes what appears to be an Internal World Bank evaluation of the new 'World Bank Group draft forest policy': "The scientific literature suggests that sustainability may not be possible in logging of some of the most natural forests, distant from surveillance and under unruly frontier conditions."
Regarding Mbi arguments that most of the existing concessions have been cancelled, Ammann expresses that: "To imply that the cancellation of very old leases, which have never been used for active logging, have anything to do with conservation would appear to be misleading to say the least. My data out of the "Conservation Atlas of Tropical Forests of Africa" lists indeed a total of 120 million hectares of forest, of which some 30 million hectares are classified as Degraded Lowland Forest, Montane, Swamp and Mangrove. Taking the areas already logged and the national parks into consideration, the proposed 60 million hectares seems to come very close to the maximum area which is commercially exploitable."
Another issue is taxation of wildlife utilisation, which is not just for wildlife utilisation but also for forestry. Ammann had accused the World Bank of supporting the killing of fully protected species and the taxation of such activity. Confronting the defensive arguments of Mbi, Ammann points out that "The Aide Memoire makes it very clear the ministry concerned would work closely with the World Bank experts on any future legislation. As such it is hard to imagine that the drafting of the forestry taxes was done without World Bank consultation. Since in the end the wildlife taxes became part of the same document, is it safe to assume that consultation had taken place?"
Unfortunately, it appears that the Democratic Republic of Congo, which is about the only country left in Central Africa with minimal logging pressure, may lose the opportunity of conserving its forests "once World Bank officials project incomes of hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes and US dollars one to two BILLION in turn over." The usual recipe of trade-off between nature and money.
Article based on information from correspondence exchanged between Karl Ammann (email@example.com ) and Emmanuel Mbi (World Bank Country Director Africa Region). Full texts available at:
- Response from Emmanuel Mbi,
24 January 2003
- Reply from Karl Ammann, 24
Two million acres of forest land is lost annually to mining in Ghana, with mining concessions taking over 70% of the total land area, consequently decreasing considerably food production. The World Bank and the International Finance Corporation (IFC) --the private lending arm of the World Bank-- have provided start-up capital and cajoled African countries to deregulate, liberalize and privatise their extractive sectors to attract foreign direct investment.
Now, five multinational mining companies operating in Ghana --Chirano Goldmines Limited, Satellite Goldfields Limited, Nevsun/AGC, Birim/AGC, Newmont Ghana limited-- will soon tear apart several thousand hectares of forest of the Subri River Forest Reserve, Cape Three Points reserve, the Supuma Shelterbelt, Opon Mansi, Tano Suraw and Suraw Extension in the Western region, and the Atewa Range forest and Ajenjua Bepo in the Eastern region. The companies invested millions of dollars and found staggering volumes of gold deposits beneath the lush green forests when the previous National Democratic Council (NDC) government gave them free rein to scavenge the forest reserves for gold. Now the NDC is no more in power and they want the present New Patriotic Party (NPP) government to enable them to move into actual mining.
Environmentalists and human rights activists say granting permits for surface mining in these ecologically fragile reserves will aggravate the already alarming rate of deforestation and forest degradation in the country and wreak havoc on freshwater systems and watersheds. Also, concerns about surface mining and heap leaching have been triggered by the lethal impact of cyanide, which is widely believed that even at low levels could have serious health effects in long term chronic exposures.
The reserves contain the only significant blocks of forest remaining in the country; they hold back fires, maintain local rainfall and humidity levels, and provide sanctuary for a stunning array of species listed as internationally threatened with extinction. If the present government grants the mining companies their wish, they will blast roads deep into the heart of the forest reserves, build camps and excavate vast stretches of top soil together with the age old trees. Tonnes of earth and rock debris avalanching down hill in some cases will also blanket rivers and streams and smother the spawning beds of fish. The heavy influx of mine workers and roads that are etched into previously inaccessible areas may also bring boomtown conditions and attract more squatters, loggers, galamsey boys [traditional miners who pan for gold on a small scale], Lotto kiosks and container shops into the reserves. The expatriate staff of the mining companies will likely chase the bush meat for their dinner tables.
A key argument of the hard-line proponents of mining in the forest reserves is that "the country needs money". At the heart of this argument lies the economic theory that suggests that developing countries should exploit their natural resources to develop, and that pollution, displacement of communities, etc., are necessary and inevitable side-effects.
Huge fortunes have been made by all kinds of foreign firms operating in Ghana but the returns do not remain in the country. Institute of Cultural Affairs' Lambert Okrah says: "It is not a case of whether we should go hungry while the gold sits beneath the trees. Gold Mining has been going on in Tarkwa, Prestea and Obuasi for so many years; now, are the people there not hungry? These places are so desolate that you will never believe they have gold."
In terms of employment generation, the sector has a relatively limited capacity to generate employment because surface mining operations are technology intensive, relying on a small number of highly-skilled workers who in many cases are expatriates. Valuable historical and archaeological sites in some of the reserves including sacred groves will be destroyed. Agricultural lands and important watersheds will also be endangered and the magnificent reserves turned into an industrial eyesore, blighted by roads, pipelines, construction debris, discarded sardine tins and plastic bags. Even the Environmental Impact Assessment of four mining companies operating in the area gave a total number of populations to be displaced as 22,267, from 20 communities.
Detailing the impact of mining in the Wassa area, lecturer and writer Thomas Akabza points out that: "While mining companies and central government reap the benefits of mining if any, very little benefits go to the people in the mining communities. These people who mostly practice traditional and subsistence agriculture are displaced from their land on which they farm leading to loss of livelihoods and the breakdown of social ties. Additionally mining has led to growing conflicts among communities displaced by mining operations as well as serious mining related health and social problems such as malaria, tuberculosis, conjunctivitis, skin diseases, prostitution and drug abuse".
Friends of the Earth's Abraham Baffoe said: "We can prosper as a nation without having to raze down our forest reserves for mining. We know very well that after the mining there will be no forests. They're trying to tell everyone that they can reclaim degraded sites but we should not deceive ourselves, its not just a matter of planting grass and trees here and there but the fact is that plantations do not make forests."
Networked with each other nationally, regionally and even globally, mining affected communities in Ghana have stepped up the struggle for human rights, self-determination and social and environmental justice and also calling on private lenders to reject mining projects that create problems for communities. However, human rights violations continue to rise with several cases of arbitrary arrests, violations of the right of access to food, forceful evictions, inadequate compensation and demolishing of villages.
"When the forest reserves are destroyed, the rivers will dry up and so will our lives", they declare. "When we went into the forest to plant cocoyam, plantain and pepper to feed our families, government people chased us out and told us not to farm there again. They told us it's a forest reserve and farming is not allowed there, they wouldn't even let us collect snails from the reserves but now government itself wants to send bulldozers there to destroy the forests because the white man says so. My brother, is this fair? When a poor man cuts a stick or kills a rodent in the forest reserve, he is thrown into jail; when a mining company pulls down a forest reserve, the big men from Accra travel all the way here to celebrate with him, is this fair?" asked Sisi Nana, a thirty year old mother of four at Bibiani.
Excerpted and adapted from "Golden
Greed. Trouble Looms Over Ghana's Forest Reserves", by Mike
Anane, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
, sent by Lambert Okrah, Institute for Cultural Affairs (ICA), e-mail:
email@example.com The full document
is available at: http://www.wrm.org.uy/countries/Ghana/Goldengreed.html
Bonny Island, situated at the southern edge of Rivers State in the Niger Delta of Nigeria, has known no peace since the early 90s, when the Federal Government of Nigeria, in collaboration with its international partners started the multi-billion dollar project Nigeria Liquified Natural Gas Limited (NLNG). Due to its strategic position, the island hosts various oil companies world-wide famous for the social and environmental destruction they cause such as Shell, Mobil, Chevron, Agip, Elf, among others.
Nigeria Liquified Natural Gas Limited (of which Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation owns 49% of the shares, Shell Gas holds 25.6 %, the Elf Group 15% and Agip International 10.4 %) purchases natural gas from upstream producers and transports it through 217 kilometers of dedicated pipeline into its plant at Finima on Bonny Island, where the gas is processed into liquid natural gas and condensed for export to the buyers.
There are complex social and ecological problems associated with the project. The rural community of the Ijaw ethnic nationality is currently under severe and serious threat. Over 6,000 local residents are being affected by the clearing of their mangrove forest, with more mangrove destruction from the controversial gas line project forthcoming. The company with its consortium of international partners has just resumed the destruction of a large expanse of virgin mangrove forest located in the area.
It is important to highlight the role that funding agencies are playing in the implementation of these activities. On December 2002, NLNG signed a loan agreement for US$1,060 million, with four Export Credit Agencies (US Exim Bank, Istituto per I Servizi Assicurativi del Commercio Estero from Italy, Gerling NCM of The Netherlands and Export Credits Guarantee Department from the UK), the African Development Bank, 19 international banks and six Nigerian banks. The loans will be deployed towards the financing of the further expansion of transport facilities for NLNG's Bonny Island plant.
Bonny Island people have protested against the destruction of their mangrove forests, but the clearing is carried out under the watchful eyes of heavily armed security guards. The people from Bonny Island are therefore requesting support to their struggle. Please help stop further destruction of mangrove forest in the Niger Delta by writing letters of concern to the following government official:
The Rivers State Ministry of
Environment and Natural Resources
Article based on information
from: "NLNG Destroys Mangrove forest in the Niger Delta Again",
Late Friday News 112 th Edition, 13 March 2003, sent by Alfredo
Quarto, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
; NLNG web site, http://www.nigerialng.com
Zambia has almost 46 million hectares of forests, of which 7.4 million hectares are reserves, 6.3 million hectares national parks and 32 million hectares are woodlands. It has an estimated area of tree plantations of some 63,000 hectares. It is within that context that the following recent news needs to be analysed.
The news is that the Zambian government is exploring the possibility of getting US$30 million to revamp the timber industry which, according to Public relations officer in the ministry of Commerce, Trade and Industry Conrad Simuchile, has been abandoned for a long time.
The money would be given out in form of loans to the business sector involved in the timber industry in order to support the introduction and establishment of plantations and processing plants.
The alleged aim is to involve entrepreneurs in the business of processing finished products instead of exporting raw timber --which later cames back to Zambia as finished products-- thus creating employment for Zambians in the industrial sector.
To stop exporting raw logs and add value to the timber through the manufacturing of finished goods sounds very reasonable, particularly in a country where rural people have suffered the effects of the removal of agricultural subsidies in the 1990's, thus pushing them to carry out other activities such as clearing woodlands to supply charcoal to the urban market in order to make a living.
However, there remain a lot of question marks. For example, how is it that the timber industry has declined even when it is a profitable business in a country plentiful of forest resources? The Minister of Tourism and Natural Resources Levison Mumba has himself acknowledged that the industry did not contribute to the country's gross domestic product because of lack of transparency by the stakeholders involved (see WRM Bulletin 60). So, who will decide who will receive the money and what controls are going to be put in place to ensure that it results in job generation and sustainable forest management?
As for the promotion of tree plantations, there are also a number of questions to be raised. Plantations are not bad in themselves. It all depends on what species will be planted, where, on what scale, how (including the prior informed consent of local peoples) and who will benefit from that and downstream industrial activities.
It would seem however, that it doesn't make much sense for a country endowed with rich forest resources to promote timber plantations instead of focusing on the wise use of forests. The available information doesn't say what the government means by "plantations." However, what is relatively clear is they would be aimed at providing the timber industry with raw material ("to help entrepreneurs introduce and set up plantations and processing plants in a bid to revamp the timber industry"). If that is the case, then it is very plausible that plantations will be focused on fast growing alien species similar to the ones being promoted throughout the tropics and subtropics: eucalyptus, pines, acacias, gmelina. In that case, all the available experience shows that it would be a big mistake.
Of course that it would make much sense to plant native species in areas of degraded forest, if and where local communities support the idea and if they were to benefit from forest restoration. Support and funding for this would be certainly very much welcomed. However, the money that the government is seeking would be given out in the form of loans to the business sector involved in the timber industry. The same sector accused of "lack of transparency" by the minister.
In sum, it is yet too early to conclude whether this recent news is good or bad, although everything seems to point out at the latter. We hope to be proven wrong.
Article based on information
from: "State Scouts for US$30m Local Timber Sector", The
Times of Zambia (Ndola), March 19, 2003, http://allafrica.com/stories/200303190962.html
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