The future of DR Congo forests mapped

dr congo map

A new interactive map that plots the land use of DR Congo’s forested lands is now online. Anyone can take a look at the map and find out where the logging concessions are, which parts are protected, the nationality of the logging companies with permits and a whole host of other information.

Sometimes just seeing reports that mentions how much land is under forestry or how much is protected does not always give a good picture of the current state of affairs. When it’s plotted on a map however you start to see just how much land is given over to logging. This new map of DR Congo’s forest allows you to see very clearly the state of the second largest rainforest on Earth. [pullquote]If more logging concessions in DR Congo are to be managed sustainably, buyers need to be prepared to pay more for the timber products.[/pullquote]

Interactive map shows land use of D R Congo.

The map doesn’t just show where the logging companies are at work, it also shows the parts of the country that are currently covered by mining concessions and where mining exploration is still ongoing. While it is aimed primarily at DR Congo residents, it is sure to be widely used as an educational tool across the world.

There’s a full range of layers that you can switch between and the map base is powered by Bing maps. One of the surprises I found out was the amount of involvement of Swiss companies in logging in the DR Congo. Another surprise is just how few of the logging concessions have a management plan for the area. It’s well worth exploring to see what you can find.

The map was a joint collaboration between the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) Ministry of Environment, Nature Conservation, and Tourism (MECN-T) and the World Resources Institute. The DR Congo government has are happy for the maps to be made public as part of their ongoing plans to increase transparency within the forestry sector.

Increasing logging pressure on the Congo Basin.

The map has been published at a time of increasing pressure on the forests of the Congo Basin. For many years the remoteness of the region, lack of infrastructure and civil wars meant that timber production had not established itself to any great extent. Now though a buoyant market for timber, better investment and a more settled political environment means that the forests of DR Congo are being eyed by major logging companies for development.

The current map uses 2009 data but the government has committed to updating and maintaining the map with the latest data as it becomes available.

The 100 million hectare Congo Basin rainforest is a major biodiversity hotspot in Africa. But it is under threat with some environmentalists claiming that up to 4 million hectares are being lost every year. Most of the Congo Basin rainforest is in the DR Congo and the government is attempting to establish more effective management of the region.

Some of their actions have been controversial. For example, they have recently given legal concessions in areas that were being logged illegally and re-established concessions in some areas that had their concessions revoked following concerns over their legitimacy.

Over half D R Congo logging concessions classed as sustainable.

Despite these concerns the DR Congo government it at pains to try to stamp out corruption within the logging industry and to protect the sustainability of logging in the country. Of the estimated 10 million hectares of (official) logging concessions 5.3 million hectares (that’s over half) is certified sustainably managed according to the Forest Stewardship Council.

Unfortunately there is an  insufficient market at the moment for this higher priced timber. If more logging concessions in DR Congo are to be managed sustainably, buyers need to be prepared to pay more for the timber products.

One of the things I’ll be looking out for on future editions of the map is the plotting of the Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) projects. The DR Congo has just signed an agreement with ERA Carbon Offsets Ltd. for a 25 year project involving just under 300,000 hectares in the Bandundu Province, in Western DRC. It’s an area that is rich in wildlife and the project will result in the ending of logging operations in the region.


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