Pact of devastation
CAMEROON'S forests are being
hijacked by France. The Cameroon
Post, the country's leading news
daily, recently reported that France
had agreed to cancel half the 3 billion debt it is owed by Cameroon if
French companies are allowed
almost exclusive access to the
African nation's rainforests. France
also insists that a new law
be passed to more than double the forest area
available for logging by
Environmentalists across the globe are aghast. "This appears to
be a bizarre reversal of the
debt-for-nature swaps of
the late '80s, under which
Third World debt was cancelled for agreements
to protect forests," observed Fred Pearce in
the British magazine, New Scientist.
However, this time, the implications are far
more alarming. French companies
like the Societe Forestiere Industrielle de la Doume (SFID) - in
which Jean-Christophe Mitterrand,
the son of the French president, is
one of the leading figures - have
been logging forests in Cameroon
since 1947. SFID alone exports more
than 250,000 cubic metres of
timber each year. This large-scale
logging has reduced Cameroon's forest cover to a meagre 22 million ha -
roughly half of what it was a few decades ago.
According to the Netherlands
committee of the World Conservation
Union, the SFID engages in "hyperselective exploitation", taking only a
handful of the best trees each area.
Though this is less harmful than
clear-felling, it attracts
migrant farmers who add
to the degradation, thus
totally devastating the forests.
Cameroon can hardly
afford to let the SFID
loose on its trees, which
are reportedly being
destroyed 10 times as
fast as they are regenerating. However, unmindful
of the risk, the government is all set to roll out
the red carpet for the French.
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