How wars and poverty have saved DR Congo's forests

Source: BBC

5 December 2011 - It is an uncomfortable fact that decades of conflict and poverty in the Democratic Republic of Congo have helped to protect the world's second largest rainforest, and by extension to slow the process of global climate change.

"Yes," says Thierry Bodson, who runs the World Wildlife Fund's programmes in the east of the country from the town of Goma. "In some places the presence of rebels has protected some areas. A lack of development has somehow protected the Congo basin."

The vast, and almost pristine forest - which sweeps west from the Rift Valley to the Atlantic coast and covers an area roughly the size of Spain - acts as a huge capture and storage unit for carbon dioxide, one of the main contributors to global warming.

But there is a growing consensus that the Congo basin is now under imminent threat. As the region's conflicts appear to be ebbing, farming, mining and logging intensify, and China and other countries stand poised to build substantial roads through the jungle.

"A lack of roads… protects a major part of this forest so far," says Mr Bodson. "We can't say don't build roads, don't create economic activity. What we can do… is to direct this development in a sustainable manner. Otherwise this very important forest can disappear."

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