China Environmental News Digest

Daily updated Environmental news related to China

Friday, August 18, 2006

Chinese government denies leasing Russian forests

Shanghai. August 15. INTERFAX-CHINA - China's State Forestry Administration (SFA) has refuted reports that it has leased a million hectares of Russian forest in order to satisfy its growing demand for timber.

The spokesman for the SFA, Cao Qingyao, said at a press conference on Tuesday that although China and Russia, as neighboring countries, were cooperating on the development of forest resources and that timber was an important component of bilateral trade, the administration had not been formally invited to make such a bid.

Russia supplied 48.8% of China's timber product imports in 2005, according to China Customs.

China's shortage of timber has been particularly pronounced since 1998, when the state imposed nationwide restrictions on logging in order to reduce the threat of persistent flooding along the Yangtze River. The devastating floods in that year were partly attributed to the lack of forest coverage along the banks of the Yangtze's upper reaches.

China's imports of forest products have almost tripled between 1997 and 2005, according to a recent research report by the pressure group, Forest Trends, and the country has since been accused of exporting its problems overseas, encouraging illegal logging and unsustainable harvesting in Burma, far eastern Russia, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea.

However, Cao Qingyao of the SFA told reporters at the press conference on Tuesday that there was no truth to the allegations that China was fostering illegal logging and timber smuggling in the rest of Asia, insisting that despite the rapid increase in wood imports over the last five years, there are legal procedures in place to prevent such abuse.

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