Saturday, March 2, 2013

Palm oil expansion threatens Congo Basin forests

Megan Rowling in AlertNet): Industrial cultivation of oil palm has "wreaked havoc" on rainforests and forest peoples in Southeast Asia and now threatens to do the same in the Congo Basin, a report from the Rainforest Foundation UK warned on Thursday.

Research commissioned by the forest protection group found that half a million hectares of new palm oil projects are getting underway in the Congo Basin rainforest, which will result in a fivefold increase in the area of large-scale palm plantations in the region. "This is a stark new threat to the second largest contiguous rainforest in the world," the report said.

Around 1.6 million hectares of new developments have been announced in the central African region since 2009, and palm oil companies are actively searching for bigger areas, the report said. Two thirds, or some 115 million hectares, of the total Congo Basin forest area is believed to have suitable soil and climate conditions for growing oil palms, it noted.

The forest area of the Congo Basin spans the borders of six countries: Cameroon, Central African Republic, Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon.

Between 1990 and 2005, the expansion of oil palm cultivation - often illegal - resulted in the deforestation of 1.1 million hectares in Malaysia and 1.7 million hectares in Indonesia, according to the report. Between 50 and 60 percent of oil palm development in the two countries during this time occurred at the expense of natural forests, it added.

"The human cost of palm oil production has been alienation of forest peoples from their land, land conflicts and the pollution or over-use of water sources," it said. "Oil palm expansion on peat forests has been a major contributor to increased climate change emissions."...

Logging in the northern Republic of Congo, via NASA

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