World Bank Backs Controversial Logging Plan

The World Bank is continuing to support a controversial plan to allow logging companies to transport logs felled before a 2002 mor­a­torium on cutting, a forestry monitoring official said Monday, des­pite widespread opposition from forestry experts and donors.

As part of its project on forest con­cession management, the Bank has helped the government formulate several proposals to lift the moratorium on the transport of logs since it was imposed in 2002, according to donor representatives and Societe Generale de Surveillance, the government-contracted independent forestry mon­i­tor.

Lifting the ban was proposed again in February, when former loan manager William Magrath was visiting Cambodia, said Robert Tennent, forestry project manager for SGS.

The proposal has moved forward in recent weeks, according to Forestry Administration re­ports, even as environmentalists argue that lifting the ban could promote illegal logging and would benefit logging companies at the expense of poor villagers.

“The facts are all on the table. The Bank is very much aware of why the notion is opposed and the many arguments against it,” Mike Davis of Global Witness, the independent forestry monitor until July 2003, said Monday.

The World Bank’s “refusal to take into account the advice and evi­dence they have in front of them is either perverse or very arrogant,” he said.

The World Bank has not res­ponded to repeated e-mail queries about its support for the proposal. Forestry Admini­stration officials, including Director Ty Sokhun, have also declined to comment on the Bank’s involvement.

Donors and others, meanwhile, have continued to oppose allowing companies to transport logs.

An independent review of the forestry sector, funded by donors including the World Bank, recommended earlier this year that the moratorium be maintained and that the entire forest concession sys­tem be scrapped.

In a July 22 letter to World Bank loan manager Peter Jipp, Davis no­ted that preparations to monitor the movement of logs in 2002 were fraught with problems, including inaccurate reporting of stockpiles and secretly issued tran­sport permits.

 

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