Russia’sSiberian Forests Falling to Illegal Logging

publishedby Agence France-Presse, 2 May 2004

KRASNOYARSK,Russia – Illegal logging and controversial business plans have ecologistsraising the alarm in Siberia’s scenic Krasnoyarsk region, Russia’s primeforestry area and vital to a country struggling under massive air pollution.

“FromKrasnoyarsk to Irkutsk, the taiga stretches without limit. Does it have an end? When you are on the top of a mountain, you seemountains all around… And all is covered by a dense forest. It gives youshivers,” Anton Chekhov wrote in the 1890s. But thefamed writer’s days are past, and now the sight is different—criminallogging and arson gnaw at the sea of trees.

InRussia, up to 30 percent of tree logging is illegal. Depending on the region,the wood then goes to Scandinavian countries or China. “Theydo it quickly, a team of five or six people take a big truck, cut a large areaand send the wood to China. It makes a good profit,” lamented Galina Kuzmina,deputy head of Krasnoyarsk’s forest protection center.

In addition, 2,000 fires last yearalone—most of them due to arson—and the Siberian bombyx parasite hasdevastated entire swaths of the region’s forest, she said.

But thegovernment’s new forestry code, which is still being drafted and allows theregions to privatise forest zones, is what troubles Russian ecologists most.

TheRussian forest is currently almost entirely managed by the “leskhozes,”local forestry administrations, which hand out licences to the lumberjacks andtheir firms.

“Afterthe privatisation experience of the 1990s, public opinion will not stand forprivatisation of forests,” Shvarts fumed.

Environmentalistsalso fear that the new code would bar millions of Russians from the forests, whomake their living by collecting cedar kernels, mushrooms and berries.

“Theysay here that Russal,” the giant Krasnoyarsk-based aluminum producer, “isready to buy up the region’s entire forest,” Kuznina said.

Thegovernment in turn hopes to encourage the creation of wood refining factoriesand paper and cellulose plants.

Russia,70 percent of whose massive territory is covered by forests, nets 4.5 billiondollars (3.8 billion euros) annually from wood exports, but could profit more ifit could refine wood at home rather than ship the raw material to be treatedabroad.

Theregion’s governor Alexander Khloponin has ambitious plans to chop down 49million cubic meters (1715 million cubic feet) of wood annually where only fivemillion cubic meters are now harvested.

“Thiswould require important forestry territories and big investors who would buildroads and replant forests as needed, like they do in Finland,” he noted.

Thegovernor hopes to attract enough capital to set up a cellulose factory, whichwould profit from the region’s low energy prices.

However,he said he thought privatisation plans were too hasty, arguing that the industrycould pass into the private sector only after the state set up efficient controlsystems—which could take up to 15 years.

Source :AFP


Print Friendly, PDF & Email
WP-Backgrounds Lite by InoPlugs Web Design and Juwelier Schönmann 1010 Wien