From Brazil to Cameroon, Indonesia to Ghana, illegal logging of trees to generate commercial revenue as well as clear land for farming has resulted in the decline of forest cover in these countries by as much as 20 per cent. However, with new awareness and responsibility campaigns, there have been moves to tighten regulatory controls on logging, and these are starting to show results.
In Brazil in particular, increased vigilance and a tightening of laws has led to a significant drop in the illegal logging and deforestation rates across the Amazonian region, one of the world’s most impenetrable forests. Similar reports are coming put of places like Indonesia and Ghana.
Due to limited or weak regulations governing the cutting of forests, illegal logging operations have thrived for years in the developing world. However, a concerted effort by the US and EU are helping to move the producer nations onto more sustainable forestry practices.
In spite of these efforts, vast expanses of forest disappear every year, as even the legal logging operations bribe officials to overcut and underreport the cutting of trees every year. The exploitation of cutting licenses is one area that needs to be looked at more thoroughly, feel experts.
Until 2008, when the US passed the Lacey Act which makes it illegal for anyone to import illegally harvested timber into the US was passed, there was no international oversight in the area of logging, leading to a culture of corruption, illegal mining and over-exploitation. Similarly in Europe, the European Union is exerting pressure by developing bilateral agreements with timber-producing countries that require third-party oversight of the logging process. This was the way that Cameroon went, leading to a significant reduction in their deforestation rates.
Brazil on the other hand has been working to discourage the sale of commodities like beef, soybeans and sugar from ranches and farms built on deforested land. Using satellite imagery, the perimeters of farms and ranches are recorded and any encroachment by them onto forested land is audited, resulting in hefty fines and punishment. Brazil has recently pledged to lower its greenhouse gas emissions by 36 per cent or more by 2020, most of which are generated by the burning down of Amazonian forests.
The entire system of tracking and monitoring is estimated at around $20 million, and allows public groups, companies and civil groups to monitor individual farmers. Those efforts paid dividends last week when Brazil announced that roughly 2,700 square miles of Amazonian forest was cleared in the year ending July 2009 — down 46 percent over the preceding year. This was the lowest rate since the government started monitoring deforestation in 1988, and the numbers have been mostly falling since 2004.
The hope shown by these results indicates that there may be some good things to look forward to, as we preserve our planet for future generations to come.