WASHINGTON, D.C. May 28, 2008 – The Democratic Republic of the Congo will establish 13 to 15 million hectares of new protected areas, the country announced yesterday at the UN Environmental Summit in Bonn, Germany. These proposed protected areas make up an area of rainforests roughly the size of Greece. WWF applauds this commitment as a step towards creating an important and expansive network for the preservation of tropical rainforests. With this commitment, the Congolese government will reach its goal to protect 15 percent of the country.
“The Congo Basin is one of our planet’s foremost regions in biodiversity. These new protected areas are essential in rescuing this precious environment,” says Allard Blom, deputy director of WWF’s Congo Program.
The commitment includes:
- Protection of 13 to 15 million hectares of rainforest in the Congo (an area roughly the size of Greece);
- A nation-wide consultation process to garner input from indigenous and traditional communities conducted on the basis of free, prior informed consent;
- A broad set of protected areas governance—not just national parks, but indigenous and local community conservation areas and in line with the CBD Program of Work on Protected Areas;
- No allocation of new extractive concessions (logging, mining) in the priority biodiversity areas selected in a strategic assessment of DRC’s biodiversity until the consultative process and biological and socio-economic studies are completed and protected area boundaries are agreed upon.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo’s territory encompasses half of the African tropical forest and the second largest concentration of forest carbon stocks on the planet, critical to mitigating global climate change. In it dwell endangered species like forest elephants, gorillas and bonobos. Population growth, as well as overexploitation of resources by timber and mining industries, jeopardize the country’s biodiversity.