Thursday, 6 August 2009

Industrial forestry in South Africa - Geasphere

SAPPI Ngodwana Pulp and Paper Mill near Nelspruit, South Africa, depends on alien tree plantations that destroy biodiversity of the southern African mist belt region in Npumalalanga, formerly known as Transvaal. SAPPI is planning to expand mill operations by 70% – wihout creating new jobs there. Despite severe impacts on soil, scarce water resources, local species and communities, 80% of these monoculture plantations are FSC-certified as "responsibly managed forests". They offer little benefit to Africans and export to rich countries of the north which waste three times as much paper per capita. Philip Owen of Geasphere talks about these and other issues:

SAPPI conservation measures alleged in Wikipedia may be “greenwash”. In 2007 Chris Lang of the World Rainforest Movement reported on its alien tree plantations, careless treatment of contract workers, and the dubious nature of FSC certification – based on promises of future improvements. He also found evidence near SAPPI's Usutu mill in Swaziland (a notoriously corrupt royal dictatorship) of clearcuts, streams often black with mill effluent and hot to the touch, and wildfires. Blaming timber loss, the Usutu mill shut down in 2009; 600 Swazis lost their jobs.
Clearcut of plantations in Usutu: Chris Lang photo
Lang's book Plantations, Poverty and Power (available online, 2009) compares industrial tree plantations in Africa, Asia and South America. He highlights the environmental irresponsibility of international "development" finance and hired "hitman"consultants. He says that paper can and should be produced
  • without destroying native forests
  • without establishing large scale monoculture tree plantations
  • without impacting on local peoples’ rights and access to land and livelihoods
  • without resulting in extensive environmental impacts: depletion of water resources, biodiversity loss, introduction of invasive species
  • without polluting air, water and soils
  • without benefiting from government direct or indirect subsidies (including ECAs, multilateral banks, or bilateral aid).
He concludes: "Any pulp mill project that cannot meet these guidelines should not be funded and should not be built.... there is no such thing as 'responsible investment' in the pulp and paper industry... Why should the industry be allowed to continue establishing vast areas of monoculture tree plantations in the South? Why should the industry be allowed to “restructure” by sacking thousands of workers in the North while it employs cheaper labour in dangerous and often temporary jobs in the global South? Why should the industry continue to expand, continue to promote wasteful consumption and continue to produce huge amounts of greenhouse gases? Why should the pulp and paper industry be allowed to continue destroying local communities’ and indigenous peoples’ livelihoods and environments?"

See also his warnings about REDD in The gaping chasm between climate science and climate negotiations 30 Jun 09.

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