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

Ukraine: Mysterious 'Roaming Tank' Reportedly Takes Aim at Smugglers

Ukraine's TV, print media, Facebook abuzz with reports a 'roaming tank' is on the loose, destroying vehicles of those involved in smuggling More

US Wildlife Service Begins Probe of Killing of Cecil the Lion

Minnesota man accused of killing beast is in hiding, has been asked to contact US officials; White House to review extradition petition More

Video Kerry Five-Nation Tour to Cover Security, Iran Nuclear Deal

Secretary of state will visit Egypt, Qatar, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam to discuss security issues, Iran nuclear deal, Trans-Pacific Partnership 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.
Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’i
X
July 29, 2015 9:34 PM
Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs