Fighting illegal Forest logging  

In February 2002, the European Commission published a document called 'Towards a global partnership for sustainable development'. It committed the European Union to developing an action plan by the end of 2002 on Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT)'.

This will combat illegal logging and associated trade, and strengthen international co-operation against forest crime and violations of forest law. Illegal logging is a growing problem, and the EC document sets out ways to tackle it. This was one of the European Commission’s priorities following the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD).

Approval was expected in early 2003, but after delays within the Commission, it was finally agreed on 21 May 2003. A year later, a budget has been allocated but there is still no implementation plan. Most of the facts and figures regarding this industry are taken from Brussels, 21.5.2003 COM (2003) 251 final.

Illegal logging costs governments vast sums of money in lost revenue – a figure of €10-15 billion a year has been estimated, which could otherwise be spent on better healthcare, education and other public services, as well as developing sustainable forest management. Although the supply-side of the problem lies in timber-producing countries, strong international demand for timber can encourage illegal logging by unscrupulous operators.

The EU and other big users of timber products can take important steps to direct their demand towards only legally harvested timber. The problem is global: efforts in this area include substantial tropical forest development in Brazil, Central Africa, and Indonesia. The highest levels of illegal logging are found in developing and emerging countries, and development co-operation plays an important part in tackling the illegal logging problem.

The OECD estimates that the global trade in timber is worth over €150bn a year - a huge market with plenty of room for criminals to fell and trade in illegally harvested timber. There is strong evidence – as summarized in the 1999 World Bank Forest Sector Review and shown in a growing number of country-based studies – that much of this trade is indeed illegal.

An inspection system using only imaging and printing technologies is the most cheap and easy to operate, especially in developing countries. Other technologies and ideas may require legislation in certain countries. There are two main stages in the logging process:

• Harvesting the timber –takes place when the tree is actually cut down from its roots.

• Manufacturing rough-processed products – turning a tree into timber. There are two main methods of converting timber: Through and through (or Plain or Crown sawn) which produces tangential boards and Quarter Sawn which produces radial boards.

The time between these two processes is limited because the tree needs to be turned into usable timber as soon as possible after felling. The diagram below shows a logistical way of authorizing the logging process. The technologies used here are printing and scanning, so special hardware is not required. The system can be implemented using hardcopy forms or digitally. There is however an electronic device which provides a discrete code, recording Time and Location.