banning logging is an important tool for halting the degradation of forests, but it seldom corrects the underlying causes of deforestation. This intriguing fact was recently stated in a report by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (fao). Moreover, the report claims that ban on logging harms forests and local communities (www.voa.com , November 17, 2001).
The report, which took more than two years to compile, is reportedly the first comparative study of restrictions on logging in the Asia-Pacific region. It examines bans that began more than a decade ago in six countries: China, New Zealand, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam. Patrick Durst, a senior forestry officer of fao, says it is widely believed that logging is a major cause of deforestation, but in fact that is not true. "In reality, logging just serves to open up the forests and put roads into them by clearing much of the timber and big trees. The roads make it quite easy for settlers to come in and finish the deforestation job,' Durst said.
According to him, the primary cause of deforestation is clearing land for farming and this is a result of high population growth. Durst says logging bans usually have been imposed as a quick response to natural calamities, such as mudslides and floods, which kill thousands of people and are often blamed on deforestation. "When these things happen, the quite simplistic assessment is often to blame for logging as politicians of course need to be seen to be doing something. For them, a very quick action that can be taken, and has been taken, is to take action against logging,' alleges Durst.
Durst says logging bans often merely move the deforestation problem to neighbouring countries that are less prepared to address it. In addition, these bans can wreak havoc on communities that depend on the industry and can fuel corruption and illegal logging. Durst says one approach to avoid these problems is a partial ban, with a time limit. According to him, the most successful logging bans have been well prepared in advance, when governments have developed a consensus among the local populations on the need for a ban.