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

    Candidates' Comments Fly Like New Hampshire Snowflakes

    Four days ahead of the country's first-in-the-nation Republican and Democratic party primary elections, surveys show the parties' contests tightening

    Australian Commander: IS Changing Tactics

    Head of Australian forces in Middle East talks with VOA about training Iraqi troops, countering evolving Islamic State efforts and defeating extremism

    UN Calls for Global Ban on Female Genital Mutilation

    Recent UNICEF report finds at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation in 30 countries

    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.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.