MAC: Mines and Communities

World Bank approves controversial forest plan

Published by MAC on 2002-10-31

World Bank approves controversial forest plan

Source: Reuters, October 31, 2002


The World Bank approved a new forestry policy on Thursday, paving the way for the lender to provide funds to forestry projects around the world in a move that infuriated some environmental groups.

Since 1991, the bank has refrained from getting involved in forestry projects because of environmental concerns. The new policy is designed to reduce poverty and at the same time protect the world's forests. "The old approach of Bank disengagement from forestry clearly has not worked," said World Bank President James Wolfensohn.

"The new course of action is centered on improving the protection of the environment and biodiversity while increasing the livelihoods of the poor."

Critics said the new plan would open the door to logging, extractive investments and plantations in forest areas that all eventually have a negative impact on the environment. "It is very disappointing," said Korinna Horta, of the nongovernmental organization, Environmental Defense. "The plan is seriously flawed and represents a dangerous set-back for the world's forest ecosystems and the people whose livelihoods depend on them." A bank study found that its 1991 policy on forests, which included a ban on providing financing for logging projects in tropical moist forests, had failed to slow deforestation as destructive and illegal logging practices had expanded in many developing countries. The bank estimates that each year, forest areas equal to the size of Greece are lost.

The bank said it is the world's largest financier of protected forest areas and parks. The new policy will seek to expand the average of 8 percent forest areas under protection in developing countries, and to maintain a ban on logging in "critical forests." The policy was unanimously approved by the bank's decision-making board of directors. Several members of the U.S. Congress had also raised concerns about the plan to the bank, a bank source said. The United States is the World Bank's largest shareholder.

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