Congo: Gorillas in the mists has turned into Charcoal in the mist

Dian Fossey carried out her well-known research on the life and
behaviour of the endangered mountain gorillas. Her memoirs “Gorillas
in the Mist” sparked a lot of attention for this region. Nowadays,
this area in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo, on
the border with Rwanda and Uganda, is the stage of violent conflicts.
Forced by the violence, hundreds of thousands of displaced men, women
and children are searching for safe places to stay. As people in the
villages and refugee camps strongly depend on charcoal and firewood
for cooking, demand for these products is very high.

Charcoal trade
has become a very lucrative business for the various armies that roam
around the areaDisappearance of the forested area is expected to lead
to great chaos. Availability of wood and charcoal will further
decrease, causing prices to rise; in their struggle for survival, all
(displaced) people will do whatever they can to fulfil their food and
energy needs. While we are already witnessing an extremely serious
situation now, we can hardly imagine the chaos in and around Goma when
energy scarcity increases further. The situation will become totally
out of control, causing a disaster for hundreds of thousands of
people. Charcoal is also reportedly being smuggled over the border
into Rwanda. The various rebel factions and the national army that
operate in and around Virunga National Park are making an estimated
US$ 30 million business a year with this charcoal trade. This is a
particularly high amount of money for a region where an average family
(of ten people) survives on more or less US$ 1,50 dollar a day. As a
result of this attractive trade and due to the lawlessness in this
part of the country, the rate of deforestation in this National Park
remains incredibly high. There is no doubt that in the short and long
term, this situation will cause large problems: As Western tourists
are willing to pay big money to visit a mountain gorilla family,
tourism is a great potential source of income for the DR Congo.
Allowing the total and irreversible destruction of the mountain
gorilla habitat would be irresponsible from both an ecologic and
economic perspective.

Posted via email from Deane’s posterous

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