Well-placed Liberian advocates against deforestation and environmental experts have cautioned the Liberian Government and key stakeholders in the forestry sector not to permit ‘exploitative and unscrupulous’ logging companies to mortgage Liberia’s precious forests.
Liberia and Guinea are the only countries still containing preserved virgin forests in West Africa; that is why conserving them is viewed as vital to the ecological system in the sub-region.
Many forestry watch-dogs continue to admonish Liberians and the government to remain steadfast in the preservation of the nation’s forest.
Over the years, communities affected as a result of illegal logging have complained about the lack of visible impact on their socio-economic conditions. They not that instead, they seem to become victims of environmental degradation and abject poverty.
Earlier this week stern warnings were sounded in several interviews conducted by the Daily Observer. Those interviewed discussed the way forward in the protection and preservation of the Liberian forest from those seeking to plunder the nation’s natural resources.
These environmentalists pointed out that owing to previous administration’s bad governance system, millions of logs have been exported with no significant impact on the socio-economic conditions of Liberians.
Following the recent democratic elections held in Liberia after years of civil conflict, swarms of advocacy groups sprung up to monitor and keep surveillance on the precious remaining rain forest of the nation.
In equal measure, dozens of logging companies also sprung up to take advantage of opportunities in the lucrative forestry business. These companies have found a more progressive business environment under the current administration of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
Being fully aware of the ugly practices of the past administration, the Unity Party led government welcomed— without any hurdles— dozens of forestry watch-dogs to assist government in the forest preservation processes.
Some of these watch-dog organizations include the British based groups Global Witness and the Society General on Surveillance (SGS); who have both opened offices in the nation’s capital.
Initially, the mechanisms crated and put into place containing some tangible loop-holes and some of the logging companies took advantage of the lapses and infiltrated the system with brown envelopes.
Subsequent to the detection of corrupt practices in the forestry sector, the Liberian Government immediately placed a moratorium on the harvest and exportation of Liberian logs on the world market.
The Liberian Government then instituted practical steps leading to the dismissal of the former Managing Director of the Forestry Development Authority and dissolution of the entity’s board of directors.
In a bid to restore confidence and credibility to the forestry sector, the Liberian Government appointed an interim management team with the head being one of Liberia’s most respected businessmen, Harrison Karnwea.
During former President Charles Taylor’s regime, thousands of hectares of forest in the coastal county of Grand Bassa were mortgaged disregarding international practices and standards.
The notorious Oriented Timber Company (OTC) of Malaysia harvested and exported several of Liberia’s finest timber species; leaving behind environmental degradation to the detriment of the citizens of Grand Bassa County.
Several attempts at the time by advocacy groups such as the Sustainable Development Institute (SDI) to speak on the malpractices in the forestry sector were met with stiff resistance by top former officials of President Charles G. Taylor’s administration.
Another newcomer in the fight against malpractice in the forestry sector is Liberia’s lead advocacy outfit the Green Advocates, headed by Attorney Alfred Brownell.
Attorney Brownell and his team have spoken out on a number of issues of concern; such as the owners of Liberia’s biggest rubber plantation Firestone Rubber Company’s environmental pollution in the Farmington River in Margibi County.
Aside from this, the environmental lawyers have also spoken critically about some of the bad labor practices meted out against vulnerable rubber tappers and other plantation workers’ socio-economic conditions over the years.
In closing, it is the fervent hope of Liberians, support partners, forestry advocates and the Daily Observer that in 2014 and beyond the Liberian Government continues to work tirelessly to ensure a vibrant forestry sector.