The Congo rainforest is the life support system for millions of people in the 'green heart' of Africa. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) alone, 40 million people depend on the forest. Like all large intact forests, it's also crucially important for regulating the local and global climate.
As the world's second largest rainforest, the Congo rainforest is also home to some of Africa's most iconic wildlife including gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos and forest elephants.
In our latest report, Carving Up the Congo, international logging companies are exposed for causing social chaos and wreaking environmental havoc in the DRC. It also reveals how the World Bank, by far the largest donor to the DRC, is failing to stop this destruction while the rainforest is being sold off under the illusion that it will alleviate poverty in one of the poorest countries on Earth.
This report shows how, in spite of a moratorium on new logging that has been in place since 2002, over 37 million acres of rainforest have been granted to the logging industry - that's an area the size of Illinois, and most of this is in areas that are vital for protecting biodiversity.
Taxes paid by the companies for the rights to log the forest should be going to local forest communities to provide essential services like education and healthcare. But even the World Bank admits that over the last three years, not a single penny paid by the logging companies has reached local communities. This leaves the local communities not only without the forest that provided their food, shelter and medicine, but without the benefits they have been promised.
In exchange for timber worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, logging companies are giving communities gifts such as bags of salt and crates of beer worth less than $100, and making promises to build schools and hospitals.
These promises are rarely fulfilled and there are reports that intimidation tactics are used against people who try to protest. We have heard stories of people being pushed into signing contracts (of which we have copies), even if they can't read the French in which they are written.
Carving up the Congo - Natalia Truchi tells
Truchi visited the Congo in March 2007. Greenpeace organised
the expedition to give
journalists and politicians a real insight into
the destruction and injustice
related to the logging industry in the
Democratic Republic of the
Congo. This is her story...
This area is already prone to corruption and the local authorities are inadequately trained and equipped to enforce the law. Poorly paid officials sometimes have only a bicycle to help them patrol vast areas of rainforest, making it impossible to control the industry.
It sounds like bad news for the Congolese, but there is still time to prevent the destruction of the rainforest and see that alternative solutions are developed which will really help to lift the country out of poverty.
It's not too late to prevent the destruction of this incredible rainforest, and by putting pressure on the World Bank, that's exactly what we intend to do.
Henry J. Paulson, Jr., the Secretary of the Treasury is the United States governor of the World Bank and is attending the spring meeting this weekend. Tell Mr. Paulson to use his influence to ensure there is a real future for the rainforest, with proper safeguards put in place to protect it.