APPETITE FOR DESTRUCTION - China’s trade in illegal timber (text, video and Burmese press release) | Land Portal

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Date of publication: 
November 2012
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This report covers several countries in Asia and Africa....."Myanmar contains some of the most significant
natural forests left in the Asia Pacific region,
host to an array of biodiversity and vital to the
livelihoods of local communities. Forests are
estimated to cover 48 per cent of the country’s
land. Yet other recent estimates put forest
cover at just 24 per cent.
These vital forests are disappearing rapidly. Myanmar has one
of the worst rates of deforestation on the planet, with 18 per
cent of its forests lost between 1990 and 2005. Myanmar’s
forest sector is rife with corruption and illegality, leading to
over-harvesting and smuggling. Natural teak from Myanmar is
especially sought after on the international market for its
unique characteristics and availability.
Since the late 1990s, neighbouring China has imported large
volumes of timber from Myanmar, the bulk of which have been
logged and traded illegally. In 1997, China imported 300,000
cubic metres of timber from Myanmar; by 2005 this had risen
to 1.6 million cubic metres....In April 2012, EIA investigators travelled to the southern
Chinese provinces of Guangdong and Yunnan to examine current
dynamics of the illicit cross-border trade in logs from Myanmar,
especially Kachin State. The investigation involved monitoring
crossing points on the Yunnan-Kachin border, surveying
wholesale timber markets to assess the origin of wood supplies,
and undercover meetings with Chinese firms trading and
processing timber from Myanmar.
The investigation revealed continuing transport of logs across
the border, despite the 2006 agreements between the two
countries to halt such trade. Chinese traders confirmed that as
long as taxes are paid at the point of import, logs are allowed in
despite a commitment from the Yunnan provincial government
to allow in only timber accompanied by documents from the
Myanmar authorities attesting to its legal origin. As the
authorities dictate that all wood exports must be handled
by the Myanmar Timber Enterprise and shipped via Rangoon,
logs moving across the land border to Yunnan cannot possibly
be legal.
Field visits uncovered movement of temperate hardwood timber
species from the mountains of Kachin State into central Yunnan via several crossing points, with trade in teak and rosewood
centred around the border town of Ruili further south. The
contrast in the condition of the forests along the border was
striking; while forests in the mountainous region on the
Chinese side of the border are relatively intact, with large areas
protected in the Gaoligong Nature Reserve, across the border in
Kachin the devastation wreaked by logging is clearly visible.
Chinese wood traders confirmed that supplies were coming
from further inside Kachin, as timber within a hundred kilometres
of the border has been logged out, and told how deals are done
with insurgent groups to buy up entire mountains for logging.
One local community elder in Kachin interviewed by EIA
summed up the situation: “Myanmar is China’s supermarket
and Kachin State is their 7-11.”...

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