Environment Alert: South Sudan Forest cover Shrinking by 1.5% Annually as Human Pressure Takes Toll

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South Sudan looses 1.5 percent of its total forest cover due to the devastating effect of human pressure and lack of fuel alternatives the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) said.

South Sudan is endowed with diverse natural forests and woodlands, with an estimated total area of 191,667 km2, taking up over 30% of total land area. However, forest assets of South Sudan have been seriously degraded by the prolonged conflict affecting the country.

UNEP Country Manager Arshad Khan said that forests depletion was being fueled by armed conflict, poverty and increased demand for agricultural land.

“Forest is covering almost 33 percent of the total land area in this country, but unfortunately because of lack of alternative fuels and other factors, the deforestation rate in South Sudan is one of the highest in the world,” Khan told Xinxhua news.

“Forests are being cut for personal gains, supporting armed conflict especially the teak and mahogany. The other thing is the changing of forests into agricultural lands that has led to diminishing of forest cover,” he explained.

Arshad said there is an estimate that the current rate at which the deforestation is taking place is between 1.2 to 1.5 percent per year.

“If this trend is continued, there is fear that in the next 50 years there will be no forests in South Sudan,” he added.

In May, the Ministry of Trade and Industry announced restrictions on timber and charcoal exports in a bid to prevent depletion of its natural resources and expand the tax base, which have been affected by the more than two years of civil war.

Arshad said the weak legal framework on forests had created a lacuna, in which licensed companies and communities exploit forests without proper regulation.

He said that the most effective way of using and maintaining forests in a sustainable manner was to involve the local population, adding that UNEP was helping the country in forest conservation.

Credit: Xinxhua