Sierra Leone imposes logging rules after lifting timber ban: ministerTags: sierra leone governance & corruption export ban overuse enforcement civil society loggers government
Freetown, Sierra Leone - Sierra Leone on Thursday announced strict new rules to curb logging misuses, a day after lifting a six-month ban on the export of timber to stop alleged widespread plundering of its natural forests.
"With immediate effect, forest rangers will have to supervise the cutting of trees for logs and no tree should be cut without their supervision," Forestry Minister Sam Sessay said. He added that all loggers must apply for a transportation permit from the ministry before moving any timber and said all wood due to be exported should have a special identification code from the ministry.
"The process is not to frustrate investors but to put proper rules and regulations in place," he explained. The authorities are also promising a reward to anyone who gives "credible information about illegal logging."
Informants "will receive compensation of one-tenth of the cost of the logs arrested and confiscated," ministry forestry expert Mohamed Hassan said.
In January, Sierra Leone banned timber experts after complaints that mostly Chinese logging companies were destroying the country's forests, plundering natural resources and causing environmental problems. Experts calculate that logging is a multi-billion dollar (euro) business in Sierra Leone with Chinese companies leading in the trade.
A 2006 European Union report identified logging as "the leading cause of environmental degradation in Sierra Leone."
Environmental watchdog Global Witness, which focuses on the exploitation of natural resources in conflict zones, said earlier this year that there was an upsurge in illegal logging in the country.
Already devastated by a bloody decade-long civil war, many communities in the north-west of Sierra Leone who depend on the forest for their livelihoods are complaining that Chinese loggers are destroying it.
"The Chinese are depleting the forest cover without replanting trees," environmental activist Morlai Sulaiman said.
A villager who lives near the northern national park of Outamba-Kilimi added that the loggers often duped local residents.
"Chinese loggers would promise us roads, water and clinics but after cutting down the trees, they would drive their heavy trucks without even talking to us," Alpha Kamara lamented.
According to government figures, the forestry industry nets around 43 million dollars (27 million euros) annually.
In 2001, Sierra Leone emerged from a ten-year civil war that claimed some 120,000 lives according to UN estimates. During the war the fighting rebel factions pillaged the country's natural resources such as diamonds and timber to fund the warfare.
Â© AFP -- 2008-06-13
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