News / Asia

Burma's Logging Export Ban Aims to Protect Shrinking Forests

Teak logs are loaded onto a lorry at a logging camp in Pinlebu township, Sagaing division in northern Burma, also known as Myanmar, March 9, 2014.
Teak logs are loaded onto a lorry at a logging camp in Pinlebu township, Sagaing division in northern Burma, also known as Myanmar, March 9, 2014.
Gabrielle Paluch
Burma’s more than $6 billion trade in illegal timber has continued despite attempts to limit logging, according to a new report released by the London-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) and a logging export ban set to begin April 1 may not be enough to save the country's shrinking forests.
 
According to official figures, 6.4 million cubic meters of raw timber logs have been exported from Burma, also called Myanmar, since the year 2000. 

Big gap
 
But that number is less than one-third of the amount of timber that global buyers have reported purchasing from the country during the same period, according to the EIA, an independent environmental advocacy group. 
 
The discrepancy points to the booming trade in illegal exports, which EIA estimates are worth nearly $6 billion. The environmental group says its studies indicate that almost half of the wood felled in Burma is illegal, but widespread corruption hides the true extent of the country’s illegal logging. 

Faith Doherty of the EIA calls the government’s lack of transparency over the issue "staggering."

 
A woman walks with children near logs at a timber yard in Rangoon, Burma, also known as Myanmar, Jan. 31, 2014.A woman walks with children near logs at a timber yard in Rangoon, Burma, also known as Myanmar, Jan. 31, 2014.
x
A woman walks with children near logs at a timber yard in Rangoon, Burma, also known as Myanmar, Jan. 31, 2014.
A woman walks with children near logs at a timber yard in Rangoon, Burma, also known as Myanmar, Jan. 31, 2014.
"Well basically you've got a big gap, where has that money gone, and who has it?" Doherty said. "Where is the 6 billion and where is it being spent? Corruption runs deep, from the government all the way down."

Myanmar Timber Enterprise, a military-owned company, oversees all legal timber trade, and grants logging concessions.

Shrinking forests
 
Government data indicate that Burma's forests, some of the largest untouched virgin forests in Asia, shrank by one-fifth, from 58 percent to 47 percent between 1990 and 2010.  
 
Now, as Burma’s economy opens up, the Ministry of Environmental Conservation and Forestry is planning to implement new conservation-driven measures to facilitate Burma's entry into U.S. and EU markets. The new measures include a logging export ban that would keep raw, unprocessed timber from leaving the country starting April 1. 
 
"When we start the log export ban the price of wood already is up in Yunnan province they can ask more price, higher price, so it can benefit to them," said Barber Cho, joint-secretary of the Myanmar Timber Merchants Association. 

Export ban
 
The export ban has not yet been signed into law, and is expected to be difficult to enforce considering the majority of the country's wood is traded illegally. Although sawed logs can be exported legally under the ban, wood processing in Burma is substandard due to poor infrastructure and electricity.
 
Influential businessmen with close links to the military are considered to be the main beneficiaries of the illegal logging practices. According to Forest Trends researcher Kevin Woods, these business cronies stand to earn even larger profits after the ban.

"What the Burmese call crony companies haven't lost so much of their businesses, they've lost the monopoly on most of the resource extraction sector," said Woods. "But they're still involved in it heavily. This is especially true for logging."
 
Woods says even with the planned caps on timber harvests, well-connected businessmen have obtained logging areas under the pretenses of palm oil concessions, and are expected to continue logging at unsustainable rates.
 
Environmental groups are urging the government to strictly enforce the export ban, improve transparency in forestry management and prosecute illegal loggers. 
 
The exact size of Burma's remaining forests is contentious. The last comprehensive survey was undertaken in 1953, and although conservationists have done extensive mapping with satellite images in the past few years, observers says the debate over the definition of forest land has led the government to overstate the quantity and quality of forest coverage.

You May Like

UN Watchdog Urges Israel to Probe Possible Gaza War Crimes

More than 2,100 Palestinians, most of them civilians, were killed in a 51-day war in Gaza, along with 67 Israeli soldiers and six civilians in Israel More

New Kenyan 'Thin SIMs' Poised to Transform African Mobile Money

Equity's new technology is approved in African nation for one-year trial, though industry leader Safaricom says thin SIMs could lead to data theft and fraud More

Solar's Future Looks Brighter

New technology and dropping prices are contributing to a surge in solar power More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid