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Illegal Logging Claimed in Yunnan
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Greenpeace China has released a statement saying that an Indonesian company is illegally logging parts of Yunnan.

The group said a large paper and pulp project by Asia Pulp & Paper Co Ltd (APP) in the southwestern Chinese province could devastate natural forests.

The allegations were denied by APP sources on Tuesday, whilst Yunnan officials said the project is considered a "good one."

The international non-governmental organization called for a halt and reassessment of the project.

It urged APP, one of the largest pulp and paper groups in Asia, to stop transforming natural forests into artificial ones and halt illegal logging.

They said it had forwarded its report to the State Forestry Administration's Department of Forest Management and to other related authorities, and expects a response within 60 days.

Sources at the administration said on Tuesday that they had not yet received the report. However, they say they intend to pay close attention to the issue. If illegal logging of natural forests has been going on in Yunnan, local forestry authorities will be ordered to look into the case and punish those who have broken the law, they said.

The project, agreed in 2002 by APP and Yunnan's provincial government, involves 1.8 million hectares in the regions of Wenshan, Lincang and Simao.
According to local authorities, it was difficult for them to decide whether to support the project or not. In the past decades, a great number of natural forests have been badly damaged by local residents. In 1999, central government banned the cutting down of forest and ordered the reforestation of cultivated land.

Taking Dadong village in Langcan, Simao as an example, there are 10,053 hectares of cultivated land in the village. Funds provided by central government each year can convert 53 hectares of cultivated land into forest but it will take over 20 years. In this time, it can only be planted with corn, which will cause huge water loss and soil erosion. However, the company has planted about 6,000 hectares of trees here.

According to Greenpeace's report, APP has been leveling natural forests in the region and planting non-native eucalyptus trees, which are used to produce paper and pulp.

Xie Yan, from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said eucalyptus trees consume a large quantity of water and are harmful to local biodiversity.

The local government responded that Wenshan, Lincang and Simao are in the south of Yunnan, where the climate is sub-tropical and good for the growth of plants. These areas get an average of 2,000 mm of rainfall each year, plenty for any plants. 

Liu Bing, Greenpeace China's forestry project deputy director, said more than 733,000 hectares of the planted areas were forest rather than deserted regions, as APP had claimed.

But Nie Yuanfei, from the Policy Research Office of the provincial government, said most of the regions used in the project were deserted.

He said they strictly abide by national rules that ban the cutting of natural forests and that the project has been carefully examined by experts.

A source from APP said the company is willing to discuss the issue with Greenpeace, and that the total land area they can use depends on agreements with local farmers and natural conditions.

The source did admit that there may be some sporadic logging of natural forests by local farmers, who want to sell their contracted land to the company.

In late October, APP announced a moratorium on tree cutting in two strategic areas of Indonesia, where it had been accused of illegal logging, until conservation assessments were completed.

Laws are currently being drafted to protect nature reserves, and are to be submitted to the National People's Congress (NPC), China's top legislature, in 2006.

Mao Rubai, director of the Environment and Resource Protection Committee of the NPC, at the ongoing International Workshop on Cooperative Management of Nature Reserves, said it is crucial to strengthen and improve management of nature reserves.

He added that the livelihoods of local people rely on local natural resources, and the need for their protection should be reconciled with the development of surrounding communities.

(China Daily, China.org.cn November 17, 2004)

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