You learn something new everyday and the fact from this story that I shall mentally file away is that there are between 300,000 and 500,000 pygmies living in the Congo rainforest. I am not sure if I expected there to be less or more than that.
World Bank admits Congo errors [FT]
The World Bank has acknowledged a series of "omissions" in reforms it supported to promote the sustainable exploitation of the Congo rainforest, the world's second largest after the Amazon.
In a document obtained by the FT, the bank defends an overall policy against the claim of environmental activists that it is encouraging uncontrolled logging which could damage irreversibly the world's second lung.
The document was produced in response to an independent inquiry triggered by indigenous Pygmy communities in the forest who complained they were not consulted and that their livelihoods were threatened. The findings are due to be discussed at a World Bank board meeting on December 20.
In the document the bank recognises that an environmental impact assessment "should have been prepared", and that the programme did not sufficiently take into account the estimated 300,000-500,000 Pygmies who live in the rainforest. It also admits that plans to earmark parts of the forest for alternative uses were "dropped before it started". This was explained by tense relations with Congo's then environment minister, according to one bank official.
The intention was to reorganise forestry concessions, many of them illegally allocated during the war, and to "protect forests from appropriation from powerful interests for private gain".
An area almost twice the size of the UK had been hived off as forestry concessions, a figure the bank says was reduced to 21m hectares when a moratorium on new concessions came into effect in 2002.
"We have found there is complete anarchy in the provinces we visited. Everything comes back to the lack of controls. There is no reporting on forest production and often felling doesn't have appropriate authorisation," he added.
Responding to questions from the FT, the World Bank admitted that "the situation on the ground is far from satisfactory and that the reform agenda has been unevenly implemented".
The official added that the overall situation would be far worse if the bank had not engaged.