Russia aims to curb illegal logging

The scale of illegal logging in Russia is far higher than official estimates, according to the country's forestry agency.

An official report stated that about only 900,000 cubic metres of forests were illegally chopped down in 2007.

However, the Russian Forestry Agency believes a staggering 240m cubic metres was the actual volume of illegal logging last year.

Speaking through an interpreter at Chatham House in London on Monday, Nikolai Kashpor, chief of the Department of Inventory and Forest Estimation at the Federal Forestry Agency, revealed the scale of the problem.

Low levels of employment, the steady demand for timber in Russia and across the world, the profitability of illegal logging and inefficient measures to prevent the practice are to blame, he said.

Earlier this year, Russian environment minister Valery Roshchupkin announced the development of a new unified information system to track the transfer of timber from the moment it is harvested to its processing and transfer to export.

Mr Kashpor said it is hoped this system will be in place in all Russian states by 2011 to curb illegal logging.

The Forestry Agency has already created an electronic database of forestry covering an area of 150 hectares which will form the basis of the information system.

"Our major task now is to give access to the database to all government departments," he said.

"The principal task for this is to set up checkpoints to measure the total volume of timber taken out of the forests.

"Without such checkpoints, it will be very difficult to implement other measures to control logging."

Russia's government has also established an Interagency Commission for Combating Illegal Logging and Timber Trade, which held its first formal meeting in Moscow in March.

Kate Martin



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