Published: Tuesday 31 October 1995

Ecologists in Madagascar are highly worked up about the plans of British conglomerate, Rio Tinto Zinc, to mine 3 littoral forests around Tolanaro, a port in the southern part of the country. Locals fear that the company will chop down all trees, depriving the people of charcoal and firewood.

The Malagasy parliament is expected to give the green signal to the company next month, in the hope of creating the island's largest source of revenue. "It's important for Madagascar that this project goes ahead", says Max Rakoto-Andriantsilavo, manager of the state agency investing in the project.

However, Friends of the Earth, the international environmental group, does not take such a rosy view. The group predicts that much of the revenue will go to foreign creditors without alleviating poverty. Further, the mine could destroy much of the Manderut, St Luce and Petriky forests, lining the southern coast, threatening the existence of many a species from trees and orchids to chameleons.

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