Authorities crack down on illegal logging
With the help of police and other law enforcement bodies, forestry authorities have launched a national crackdown on illegal logging.
Speaking yesterday, Deputy Director of the State Forestry Administration (SFA) Lei Jiafu explained efforts would be focused on tackling large scale operations.
Touching on the recent controversy concerning pulp and paper production giant Asia Pulp & Paper (APP), a senior SFA official confirmed yesterday that APP had been involved in illegal logging in Southwest China's Yunnan Province.
Environmental group Greenpeace first accused APP in November of carrying out illegal logging to develop its pulp and paper industry.
Wang Zhuxiong, deputy direct of SFA's department of forest resources management, said initial investigations confirmed APP had illegally logged at least 2,700 cubic metres of timber from Yunnan's forests, according to Xinhua.
It is the first time Chinese officials have officially commented on the case since Greenpeace first levelled its accusations at the end of last year.
And the pulping giant could be in even more hot water if investigations into operations by Hainan based APP subsidiary, Hainan Jinhai Pulp & Paper Co Ltd, turn up further wrong doing.
Environmentalists say local natural forests have been stripped and replanted with fast growing species to serve the paper industry.
"We need time to find out the whole situation," said Wang, adding the case will be handled according to the letter of the law.
The SFA held a televised conference yesterday, urging local authorities to punish those involved in excessive and unlicensed tree cutting, reclamation of woodland for farming, occupation of forests for construction projects or any other illegal timber trading and trafficking.
Findings of an ecosystem assessment project covering western China were released yesterday.
The results follow the completion of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, a four-year international collaboration announced in June 2001 by Kofi Annan, secretary-general of the United Nations.
It is the first time such a global study of ecosystems has been attempted, said Minister of Science and Technology Xu Guanhua at a news conference in Beijing yesterday.
More than 1,300 scientists from 95 countries have participated in the project over the past four years.
"The assessment's findings are expected to provide policy-makers with more reliable information on changes in the ecosystem, so as to help inform scientific decisions for regional development," said Xu.
According to Liu Jiyuan, director of the Institute of Geographical Sciences and Natural Resources Research at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, climate change and human activities have degraded the functions of ecosystems in western China over the past two decades. Ecosystems in western China have the potential to sustain responsible regional development, but some areas, such as Gansu and Shaanxi provinces and the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, have become "overloaded" with economic development and increasing human activities, said Liu.
Despite of this, the diversity of ecosystems in western China has showed a trend towards improvement over the past two decades, he said.
Regions in western China face such problems as a shortage of water resources, pollution and natural disasters such as drought.
Over the next century, the ecosystems of western China will be able to sustain regional development only if environmental degradation is effectively controlled. However, if neglected, the ecosystems could easily deteriorate, Liu said.
(China Daily 03/31/2005 page2)