KINSHASA - Logging must stop on nearly 13 million hectares of forest in DR Congo after a government review cancelled nearly 60% of the vast countryâ€™s timber contracts, the government said on Monday.
Congo, home to the second largest tropical forest in the world after the Amazon, has completed a long-delayed review of 156 logging deals aimed at stamping out corruption in the sector and enforcing minimum legal and environmental standards.
Logging, mining, and land clearance for farming are eating away at the Congo Basin, which accounts for more than a quarter of the worldâ€™s tropical forest, at a rate of over 800,000 hectares a year -- an area roughly the size of Massachusetts.
At the end of the six-month long World Bank-backed process, a panel of government ministers found that only 65 timber deals were viable. The rest will now be cancelled, Environment Minister Jose Endundo told a news conference in Kinshasa.
â€œI will proceed within the next 48 hours to notify those applicants having received an unfavourable recommendation from the interministerial commission through decrees cancelling their respective conventions,â€ he said.
â€œUpon notification of the cancellation decision, the operator must immediately stop cutting timber.â€
Timber rights held by companies whose contracts were cancelled by the commission make up 57% of over 22 million hectares currently alotted for logging. The remaining nearly 10 million hectares will carry on as exploitable concessions.
However, Endundo said the government planned to respect a moratorium, put in place during Congoâ€™s 1998-2003 war but widely ignored, on granting new timber deals. Nineteen contracts initially destined to be scrapped were given the green light during an appeals process completed recently, but a final list of companies with concession now due to be cancelled has not been released.
DRC cancels timber deals