Woolf, Chief Political Correspondent
05 July 2003
More than 23 million acres
of the world's forests - enough to cover the whole of Scotland
- are disappearing
each year because
of logging, mining and land clearance for agriculture.
The scale of
deforestation is so great that some countries, such as Indonesia,
could lose entire rainforests in the next 10 years.
The appetite for wood for furniture, floors and building in Europe
and North America is shrinking the world's forests at a rate of
2.4 per cent every 10 years, official figures show.
Hilary Benn, an International
Development minister, who released the United Nations statistics,
said that they did not take into account
deforestation caused by "trade in illegal timber".
to the UN figures showing the depletion of forests between 1990
and 2000, the worst-affected country was Haiti, which lost 5.7
per cent of its stock in that period. Saint Lucia's forestry was
eroded by 4.9 per cent and El Salvador's by 4.6 per cent. Other
big losers included Micronesia (4.5 per cent), Comoros (4.3 per
and Rwanda (3.9 per cent).
The habitats of the orang-utan, bonobo
ape and lowland gorilla are under threat and the world's rarest
creatures, including the Sumatran
tiger and rhino, are being forced to retreat into Indonesia's ever-
The figures follow the disclosure by
The Independent of the alarming rate at which the Amazon rainforest
is being destroyed.
Brazil's rainforests has leapt by 40 per cent in the past year,
with 25,500sq km felled in that time.
Andy Tait, the forests campaigner
at Greenpeace, said: "The
world bank estimates that the lowland rainforest of Sumatra and Kalimantan
in Indonesia, which is the home of the orang-utan, has less than
10 years to go until it is completely logged out."
on the Government to put more pressure on international governments
to use wood produced in sustainable logging programmes.
Baker, Environment spokesman for the Liberal Democrats, said the
Government must stop using mahogany and sapele wood in its public
Deforestation is an almost irreversible process. You cannot grow
a forest overnight. Excessive forest farming must be curbed. Otherwise
the adage that 'forests proceed man, deserts follow him' will sadly
ring true," he said.