Solomon Islands’ forests felled fast to feed China demand — Global Witness

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Aerial photo of log landing area by the coast of Choiseul province, Solomon Islands, showing logs waiting to be picked up by boat and two small bulldozers on July 30, 2018. (Alessio Bariviera/Global Witness/Handout via REUTERS)
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Aerial photo of the coast of the Solomon Islands, showing a log landing area with logs waiting to be picked up by boat, a logging camp and machinery and logged forest and a mountain in the background July 30, 2018. (Alessio Bariviera/Global Witness/Handout via REUTERS)
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Aerial photo of the coast of the Solomon Islands showing a log landing area with piles of logs waiting to be picked up by boat, plus some logging machinery and huts July 18, 2018. Picture taken July 18, 2018. Alessio Bariviera/Global Witness/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVE.
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Aerial photos of logging roads in the Solomon Islands August 2, 2018. (Alessio Bariviera/Global Witness/Handout via REUTERS)
Updated 18 October 2018
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Solomon Islands’ forests felled fast to feed China demand — Global Witness

  • Export volumes of the archipelago’s single largest export commodity leapt more than 20 percent to just over 3 million cubic meters in 2017
  • Global Witness said this was more than 19 times higher than sustainable levels

SYDNEY, Australia: The South Pacific nation of the Solomon Islands is felling its tropical forests at nearly 20 times a sustainable rate, according to research by an environmental group published on Thursday, driven by insatiable Chinese demand for its lumber.
Export volumes of the archipelago’s single largest export commodity leapt more than 20 percent to just over 3 million cubic meters in 2017, central bank figures show, worth $3 billion Solomon Islands dollars ($378 million).
Environmental and rights group Global Witness said this was more than 19 times higher than sustainable levels, and if continued could denude the country and soon exhaust the single biggest contributor to the Solomons’ economic growth.
Deforestation also removes wild fruits and vegetables that are a local food source and destroys the habitats of animals.
Global Witness’ analysis of import data also found that the overwhelming majority of the lumber was sent to China, the world’s top importer of timber, which it said underscored the urgency for Beijing to regulate imports and probe their origins.
“The scale of the logging is so unsustainable that natural forests will be exhausted very soon if nothing changes,” Beibei Yin, who led the research team that compiled the report, told Reuters by phone from London where Global Witness is based.
“The Chinese companies which import most of the wood are so significant that if all of them together stop buying there is still a chance to revert back,” she said.
Global Witness took 155,000 cubic meters as a sustainable log export volume from the Solomons, which is the lowest but most recently calculated of several government and expert analyzes, with the highest being approximately 300,000.
It gave no date of its own for the possible exhaustion of forests but cited a preliminary estimate of 2036 which was made in 2011 by the Solomons’ forestry ministry.
The Solomon Islands Prime Minister’s office directed Reuters to the secretary for the Forestry Minister, who did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.
China’s commerce ministry did not immediately respond to a faxed request for comment.
The Solomon Islands has more than 2.2 million hectares (5.4 million acres) of forest covering approximately 80 percent of its land area, which is spread over some 990 islands.
Though the country’s forestry ministry has previously said it had toughened regulations to combat illegal logging, Global Witness said a lack of enforcement capacity increased the risk of loggers cutting more than permitted.
Global Witness’ satellite analysis of logging roads showed 669 km (416 miles) lying above 400 m (1,300 feet) elevation, where logging is nominally restricted.
Interpol estimates the global trade in illegal lumber to be worth more than $50 billion annually. ($1 = 7.9381 Solomon Islands dollars) (Reporting by Tom Westbrook in SYDNEY; additional reporting by Elias Glenn in BEIJING Editing by James Dalgleish)


Three Ethiopian students killed in ethnic clashes: government

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has received international praise for his reformist agenda. (Reuters)
Updated 55 min 7 sec ago
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Three Ethiopian students killed in ethnic clashes: government

ADDIS ABABA: Three Ethiopian students were killed and 34 injured after a fight on a campus escalated into deadly ethnic clashes in the west of the Horn of Africa country, the government said on Wednesday.
The unrest broke out on Tuesday after a fight at Assoa University erupted into wider violence between groups of students, Minister of Science and Higher Education Hirut Woldemariam said, quoted by Fana Broadcasting Corporate, which is close to the state.
While Ethiopia’s new Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has received international praise for his reformist agenda, a wave of intercommunal violence — mostly over land issues — has marred the first few months of his rule.
The minister did not give details about how the three students died or say to which ethnic groups they belonged. But activists on social media said fighting was between students from the country’s two main ethnic groups, Oromo and Amhara.
“The unrest degenerated into deadly clashes because of the interference of forces intent on causing chaos,” the minister said without giving any further details.
She said scores of people suspected of being involved in the clashes were arrested and university officials, local elders and student organizations were trying to ease tensions.
Ethiopia’s higher education institutions have been a center of dissent since the 1960s and helped overthrow the last Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie I in 1974. Universities are often the site of ethnic, political and religious clashes.
Last month, at least 44 people were killed in fighting between rival ethnic groups in western Ethiopia when youths armed with rocks and knives forced thousands of people to flee their homes until security forces were deployed to calm the area.