Sierra Leone cracks down on illegal logging

Sierra Leone cracks down on illegal logging

Our Habitat

AFP

Sunday, January 03, 2010

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FREETOWN, Sierra Leone (AFP) -- The Government in Sierra Leone announced Friday an immediate ban on the transport and export of logs, in an effort to crack down on a largely uncontrolled, multimillion-dollar industry.



President Ernest Koroma's office said in a statement that "illegal logging is having adverse effect on the country's environment and depleting the ozone layer and must be stopped with immediate effect".



It warned that violations of the logging export ban could result in court fines and confiscation of property.



At least 10 logging companies are officially registered in the West African nation but dozens of others operate illegally, said the executive director of the Sierra Leone Environmental Group, Emmanuel Touray.



Trade and customs officials told AFP that tens of millions of dollars worth of logs were smuggled out of the country to Middle Eastern and South-east Asian countries to be made into furniture and household decorations.



Government forestry guards said that between January to November last year, 10,000 power saws and other tree felling implements were confiscated from "dodgy loggers" operating deep in the country's lush forests.



Court proceedings against those who are caught drag on for months and often end up with minimal fines of US$200 to US$500, a senior guard said, speaking on condition of anonymity.



"I think the ban is the most effective punishment so far and I hope the Government will seize the opportunity to draft new legislation to protect our forest and the environment," he said.


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