War and peace (forest edition)

May 29, 2009

Yes, we know that forests are exploited during conflicts, serving as hideouts for rebels, staging grounds for guerilla warfare, currency for weapons and as rewards of the spoils of war. However, there are some forests who have not only benefitted from the need of our species to kill each other but whose very existence is dependent on it. These are the ‘Forests of War’ (though most prefer the more genteel sobriquet of ‘Peace Parks’). Now, I am not advocating that we embark on starting war campaigns to protect forests, but the fact remains that in some cases forest ecosystems fare better in war time. In some twisted circumstances, peace can actually spell devastation of previously undisturbed wilderness. Some notable examples;

1. The Demilitarized Zone, North/South Korea: This unwitting 4Km wide, 250Km long forest has been left relatively undisturbed since 1953. More than 20,000 migratory waterbirds use the forest wetlands and it is probably the last intact forest ecosystem in the region. The only threat to its survival; Peace.

2. Forests of Colombia: The forests of Colombia are HQ for armed groups, guerillas and paramilitaries. While they are responsible for converting forest tracts  into Coca and Poppy fields for the cocaine and heroin that pay the bills, their presence has simultaneously discouraged migration and organised exploitation of these frontier regions. Because of years of  ‘gunpoint conservation’, Colombia has more forest acerage than several decades ago.

3. Forests of Aceh Province: The Aceh province contains the largest remaining blocks of rainforests on the island of Sumatra. Most of the forests in Sumatra has been cleared by loggers or converted into oil palm plantations. The conflict in Aceh protected the forests by deterring such activities. The province now wants to earn carbon credits for its 3 million hectares of forest from ‘avoided deforestation’ carbon financing schemes.

4. Borneo: When Indonesia and Malaysia were fighting over border claims on the island of Borneo, very little damage was done to the wilderness. But in the 1990s they peacefully competed to cut down and sell Borneo’s forests. Businesses and the military raced to start forest fires to clear them for cash crop cultivation.

5. North Laos forests: Laos is paying part of its war debts from the Vietnam/American war to Vietnam and China with timber concessions in Northern Laos. Timber merchants from China and Vietnam are able to operate without consideration for logging bans or protected area boundaries. In August 1999 the state-run Vientiane Times reported that 90,000 cubic meters of timber went to cover ‘debt repayment,’ 12.5 percent of the total national timber quota for 1998/99.

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One Response to “War and peace (forest edition)”

  1. Ilo said

    you are very good at showing unexpected points and challenging safe and easy thoughts and opinions

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