UN agency warns of fast-paced deforestation in tropical areas

UN agency warns of fast-paced deforestation in tropical areas

Tropical countries continue to lose their forests at a rapid rate, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned in a major new report issued today.

According to the State of the World's Forests 2001, during the past decade, 16.1 million hectares of natural forests were lost each year, including 15.2 million in the tropics. Deforestation was highest in Africa and South America.

FAO blames the loss and degradation of forests on their conversion to other land uses, mainly agriculture, and on pests, diseases, fire, overexploitation of forest products, poor harvesting practices, overgrazing, air pollution and storms.

Efforts to improve forest management will only be successful if forest crime and corruption can be reduced, the report stresses. "Illegal and corrupt activities threaten the world's forests in many countries, particularly but not exclusively in forest-rich developing countries." It notes that the growth of illegal logging is, in some cases, a consequence of trade liberalization and globalization.

The worst deforestation between 1990 and 2000 was in Argentina, Brazil, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Indonesia, Myanmar, Mexico, Nigeria, Sudan, Zambia and Zimbabwe, according to the report. The countries with the highest net gain of forest area during this period were China, Belarus, Kazakhstan, the Russian Federation and the United States.