International NGO calls on Gov’t to freeze logging operations

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BY GEORGINA KEKEA

INTERNATIONAL NGO, Global Witness is calling on the Government of Solomon Islands to immediately place a moratorium on all existing logging operations.

This moratorium comes amidst a report that is said to unpack issues that lie at the heart of the Solomon Islands disappearing forests.

“The hugely unsustainable rate of logging, the high risks of illegality around how timber is sourced on the islands, the fact that the industry does little to benefit local people – all of these create a picture of islands far from unspoiled, untouched or unexploited,” Global Witness say.

With that, they recommend that Government of Solomon Islands review the issuance of operator’s permits and the operations themselves for legal violations and permits with those found operating illegally to have their licence removed.

Global Witness say that in order to curtail the issues of illegality and unsustainability, Solomon Islands government must proceed in improving the systems in place so that documents relating to issuance and oversight of logging operations can be publicly accessed via electronic systems.

“This will allow landowners to monitor how their own land is being used and challenge any unauthorised uses, as well as facilitate thorough due diligence by timber buyers.”

The international NGO say Solomon Islands should employ an independent organisation or expert company to verify the volumes, values and species of logs that are exported in order to check that the logging companies are paying the correct amount of taxes.

Meanwhile, an assessment report on Forest resource in Solomon Islands in 2011 says the natural forest logging industry is unlikely to crash in the next few years, despite the acceleration in logging activity since the 2006 Solomon Islands Forest Resource Assessment.

“Re-entry into secondary forests is projected to sustain significant levels of logging activity for at least another decade and, potentially, at lower levels for several more decades.”

However the current report by Global Witness says Solomon Islands do not have much time before the forests are exhausted.

A recent report commissioned by the Ministry of Finance suggested that if logging activities continue at the current pace, in 18 years’ time, natural forests will be exhausted and not in 70 years’ time.

At the same time, Global Witness is calling on the Chinese government to put in place mandatory measures requiring all timber importers to carry out due diligence to ensure they do not import timber produced in violation of source country laws.

“The measures should require importers to go beyond official documents as proof of legality and require importers to investigate and verify the conditions under which the timber was produced. The measures should also require companies to publish their due diligence policy and procedures,” Global Witness say.

If this current trend continues, Global Witness is fearful that this will have a devastating and irreparable impact on the country’s environment.

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