EU: Plantations, poverty and power

Pulp mills do not build themselves any more than plantations plant
themselves. One of the reasons for the industry’s current problems is
a conflict of interest. European companies, aid agencies and
institutions play a significant role in promoting and financing the
expansion of the industry in the South. They promote this expansion
not as a form of “development” but because it is beneficial to
European industry.

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My new report, “Plantations, poverty and power”, looks at the role of
European companies and institutions in promoting the expansion of the
pulp and paper industry in the global South. The report replies to the
lies that plantation proponents repeat to justify the expansion of
industrial tree plantations in the South: that plantations provide
jobs, relieve pressure on forests, are only established on degraded
land, restore soils, sequester carbon and help meet a “global demand”
for paper. The biggest lie of all is that plantations are forests.

The reality for people living in the areas where plantations have been
established is that plantations have destroyed their livelihoods and
sucked streams and rivers dry. The few jobs created are dangerous,
poorly paid and often seasonal. Pulp mills are among the most
polluting of industrial processes. Among the reasons that the South
looks so attractive is that regulation is less strict. Trees grow
faster in the tropics, labour is cheaper and governments provide a
series of subsidies to encourage the expansion of the industry.

But another important reason, which the industry is more reluctant to
acknowledge, is that in several countries, the area of industrial tree
plantations expanded rapidly under brutal military dictatorships, when
protest against the impacts of plantations was either extremely
dangerous or impossible. Examples include South Africa, Chile, Brazil,
Thailand and Indonesia. The report looks at five pulp projects in
detail: Veracel (Brazil); Sappi (Swaziland); Advance Agro (Thailand);
Asia Pulp and Paper (Indonesia); Botnia (Uruguay). Without generous
subsidies it is unlikely that any of these projects would have gone
ahead. The projects provided a series of lucrative contracts for
European, Nordic and North American consulting firms, machinery
companies, chemical suppliers and engineering firms. All of these
projects have resulted in serious problems for local communities.

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Plantations_Poverty_Power.pdf (819 KB)

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