China's Logging Ban Threatens Other Forests

By Cynthia Kirk

This is the VOA Special English ENVIRONMENT REPORT.

Environmental groups say a ban on tree-cutting in parts of China is threatening forests in Southeast Asia, Russia and western Africa. China banned tree-cutting in Nineteen-Ninety-Eight in an effort to protect its disappearing forests and to prevent flooding. Since then, Chinese logging companies have looked to other countries for wood. China has now become the second largest importer of wood in the world.

China banned tree-cutting in some of its forests in Nineteen-Ninety-Eight. It did so after floods on the Yangtze River killed more than three-thousand people. The floods cost the country thousands of millions of dollars in damage.

Scientists said the flooding was caused by lack of forest coverage along the upper part of the Yangtze River. They say the loss of trees caused soil damage and caused water levels to rise.

After the floods, the central government banned tree-cutting along the upper areas of the Yangtze and Yellow Rivers. The restrictions also extended to eighteen of China's provinces. Environmentalists say the ban on tree-cutting has greatly increased the demand for wood in China. Before the ban, China reportedly imported about four-million cubic meters of wood a year. Last year, China reportedly imported almost fifteen-million cubic meters of wood. Only the United States is said to import more wood.

China is said to be buying wood from the rainforests of Malaysia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Gabon and Russia. Environmentalists say forests in eastern Russia have been sharply reduced to satisfy rising demand in China, as well as in Japan and South Korea. Russia now supplies forty-two percent of all the wood China imports.

Many workers lost their jobs after the Chinese ban on tree-cutting. Chinese tree-cutting companies are said to be operating in Burma and other southeastern Asian nations. Environmental groups say forest destruction along Burma's border with China has been severe.

Environmentalists say forest destruction is a growing problem around the world. They say the loss of trees harms local communities that depend on the forests to survive. They say the destruction of forests also increases pollution. And it makes it easier for hunters to catch endangered animals.

This VOA Special English ENVIRONMENT REPORT was written by Cynthia Kirk.

Voice of America Special English