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SFA to Investigate Illegal Logging Claim
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China will investigate allegations that an Indonesia-based firm has been engaged in illegal logging in the southern island province of Hainan, an official at the State Forestry Administration (SFA) said yesterday in Beijing.

The China office of Greenpeace, an international environmental group, last Wednesday accused Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) of illegally clearing primary forest to build roads and plant a "large area of eucalyptus pulp and paper forest" in Yinggeling, a nature reserve in Hainan.

"China welcomes foreign investment in forestation on the condition that it protects the local ecosystem," said Jin Zhicheng, an official in charge of news releases at the SFA.

"But any actions that destroy the ecosystem and biodiversity are not permitted and will be firmly punished."

He said the SFA had asked the Hainan provincial forestry bureau to investigate the case, though there had not been any results as yet.

"The Yinggeling area is the largest tropical rain forest in Southeast Asia, growing a rich spectrum of tropical species," Jin said.

Liu Bing, Greenpeace forestry project director, addressed the allegations at a news conference.

"APP crudely opened roads in the protected area by destroying natural forest," Liu said.

"This not only harmed a large area of the natural forest, but also caused significant water losses and soil erosion, and could lead to reduced biodiversity and the destruction of an ecosystem."

Meanwhile, APP told China Daily that "the accusations are definitely not true".

A newsletter released by APP said officials from the Hainan provincial forestry bureau and other related governmental departments visited the forestation area last August and found that APP had not planted any fast-growing trees in the protected region, nor had it felled any primary forest to make space for plantation.

APP said its forestation work in China had abided by the country's laws and rules. And its target areas were mostly barren fields and mountains that had been approved by forestry authorities.

However, environmentalists from Greenpeace regularly accuse APP of illegal logging in both Indonesia and at its pulp and paper operations in Hainan and the southwest China province of Yunnan.

(Xinhua News Agency April 5, 2007)

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