A Chinese logging company in Guyana, BaiShanLin Forest Development Inc and another in China, Long Jiang Forest Industries Group, share one special quality. They both have a notable history of unsustainable logging.
BaiShanLin, on numerous occasions, has been heavily criticized by the local authorities for its wanton abuse of Guyana’s forests.
Forensic auditor, Anand Goolsarran, in a recent interview with Kaieteur News said that this company has literally “fooled the nation” while enjoying millions of dollars worth in concessions and the grant of two exploratory permit without meeting the criteria.
The company has also benefited from “premium” privileges under the guise that it would establish a state of the art wood processing facility here. Ten years later and this promise is unfulfilled.
Taking into consideration that the Chinese company has failed to fulfill its obligations to Guyana, Goolsarran, in his recent audit report of the Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC) made several recommendations. The fact that the Forests Act does not permit a renewal of a State Forest Exploratory Permit at the end of three years, the contract with the company, Goolsarran said, should be terminated forthwith.
Goolsarran also recommended that State forest currently controlled by BaiShanLin should be returned to the Commission for reallocation.
In addition, he said that the coalition administration should consider terminating the investment agreements with the company and recover the value of the fiscal concessions granted to it.
But it seems as though BaiShanLin which is currently managed by three directors, will have a new owner. Interestingly, LongJiang which operates in China has a 55 percent hold in BaiShanLin.
It has expressed to the Government of Guyana that it plans to fully take of the company by year end. It has given the coalition administration that it means well. It wants to breathe new life into BaiShanLin.
But this very company has “skeletons in its closet.”
Several Forestry experts have found that LongJiang, which is owned by the Government of China, has “a track record of unsustainable logging.”
The state-owned company operates in the Heilongjiang Province. That area holds some of China’s prime and lush temperate forests.
But after noting the exploitation of the forests in that area by state firms, one of the most powerful being LongJiang, the Government there was forced to halt commercial logging.
China’s Forestry experts have hailed the ban as a major step forward, predicting it will enable timber supplies to recover and shift the industry’s focus towards improved forestry management.
Sheng Weitong, a forestry expert and former advisor to China’s cabinet-level State Council, told chinadialogue that some laid-off loggers “will become forest rangers and learn how to manage forests because the vast numbers of young and semi-mature trees in these districts need management. Workers here neglected forest management in the past.”
“Others will be encouraged to develop alternative industries such as tourism, growing blueberries, ginseng, edible mushrooms, and flowers, or raising chickens and frogs. Existing laws are thought sufficient to tackle illegal logging.”
The ban in Heilongjiang significantly affects Longjiang Forest Industry and Daxing Anling Forestry Company (Anling Forestry), and signifies a shift towards forest conservation, rather than utilization, Sheng says.
The two state-owned companies manage 18.45million hectares of forests, covering 39 percent of the entire province of Heilongjiang, according to the official Xinhua news agency.
The Heilongjiang province, close to the frozen river border with Siberia, had forests which were once so dense that the area was known as the Great Northern Wilderness.
But China’s Forest experts emphasized that more than 50 years of unsustainable logging by state-entities such as LongJiang have led to disastrous deforestation. This has resulted in soil erosion and dust storms. And with fewer trees to retain water, Heilongjiang has suffered devastating floods.
From 2001 through 2012, Heilongjiang lost over 470,000 hectares of tree cover representing more than 2.5 percent of its forested area, according to data from Global Forest Watch (GFW).
The ban comes after years of declining tree cover loss in the province over the past 15 years, from a high of 80,000 hectares lost in 2004 to just under 23,000 hectares in 2012, the most recent date for which GFW data is available.
“A halt here (in Heilongjiang) means an end to the way China has been utilizing forestry resources since 1949, and creates an opportunity for China to move to an era of improved forestry management,” agrees Hou Yuanzhao, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Forestry, adding that Heilongjiang’s state-owned forests are the center of China’s forestry industry. (Kiana Wilburg)
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