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DRC national parks, protected areas face destruction and extinction

Unsustainable logging and fishing, hunting, agriculture, oil and mining activities, among others, are threatening the existence of national parks and other protected areas in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), an expert said last week.

DRC natural treasures include the national parks of Salonga, Upemba, Garamba, Virunga and the Yangambi Biosphere Reserve. Approximately 17% of the DRC’s national territory consists of protected areas.

Raymond Lumbuenamo, World Wildlife Fund (WWF) country director, told UN-funded Radio Okapi that these activities were disrupting biodiversity in these protected areas.

“The rains falling on the Congo Basin depend on more than 80% of the forest. If we cut the forest, there will be no more rain and water. There will be no more rivers and there will be nothing left,” Lumbuenamo said.

He called on the Congolese people to protect the forests and other protected areas, which he said had the potential of disturbing the country’s natural rain movements if they continued to be open up.

When the forest disappears, it is us Congolese who lose, he said, pointing out that human activities were also destroying animal habitats.

“Economic interests are pushing some corrupt operators to obtain the documents necessary to carry out their activities on these sites, and in the process destroying the entire flora,” he claimed.

The UN and environmental groups have recently been at loggerheads over Soco International Plc’s ‘selfish’ plans to start exploiting oil in the Virunga National Park.

However, a group of 21 countries tasked by UNESCO warned Soco and other oil companies not to explore or exploit in any World Heritage Sites, saying that oil, gas and mineral exploration and exploitation were incompatible with World Heritage status globally.

Lumbuenamo’s desperate plea follows the announcement mid-year by the European Union of a financial assistance of 120 million euros to develop the country’s national parks and natural reserves.

DRC’s ‘mediocre’ annual budget, which hovers between US$3 and 5 billion in a country of the size of Western Europe, does not seem to allocate funds for nature conservation and maintenance of national parks and natural reserves.

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