Oil, gas, mining… deforestation accelerates in the Congo Basin
By Jean Marie Takouleu – Published on / Modified on
Ahead of the Three Basins Summit, which closed on 28 October 2023 in Brazzaville, Congo, a new report lists the threats to the world’s three major forest basins. These include mining, oil and gas exploitation, as well as agriculture.
The forests of Amazonia, the Congo Basin and Borneo-Mekong-South-East Asia are veritable carbon sinks. For example, the Congo Basin has the capacity to absorb 610 million tonnes of CO2 per year. But this key role for the climate does not prevent it from being destroyed by human activity. In fact, almost 20% of the intact tropical forests in the three basins are currently under active or potential oil and gas concessions.
At the same time, almost 25% of the intact tropical forests in the Amazon and Congo basins are now under active or potential mining concessions. These figures are contained in the Three Basins Threat Report, published ahead of the Three Basins Summit by a consortium of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) made up of Earth Insight based in California in the United States of America, Rainforest Foundation UK, Dynamique des groupes des peuples autochtones (DGPA) based in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Ajemalibu Self Help (AJESH) based in Cameroon, Auriga Nusantara in Indonesia, the Coordination of Indigenous Organisations of the Amazon Basin (COICA) in Lima, Peru, and the Amazon Sacred Headwaters Alliance based in Ecuador.
Congo Basin forests in peril
The report reveals that over 72 million hectares, or more than 39% of the undisturbed tropical rainforests of the Congo Basin, are now covered by oil and gas blocks. These deposits are located mainly in the DRC, eastern Congo, western Gabon and northern Central African Republic (CAR). This forest basin, which covers 180 million hectares, is also threatened by mining.
Almost 48 million hectares, or nearly 27% of undisturbed tropical rainforests, overlap with mining concessions in the Congo Basin. Among the countries affected by mining is once again the DRC, where these resources are fuelling conflict, mainly in the east. In the midst of this turmoil are the indigenous communities. At least 150 ethnic groups live in 17,000 towns, villages and communities across the Congo Basin. These people are now living in oil and gas blocks.
Deforestation is accelerating
According to the report, at least 11,000 inhabited places, including both indigenous and forest-dependent populations, are located in mining concessions in the Congo Basin. Considered to be the planet’s second green lung after the Amazon, the Congo Basin is currently home to 185 million people and 10% of the world’s biodiversity.
According to figures from the American University of Maryland published on Global Forest Watch, the Congo Basin lost more than 600,000 hectares of primary forest in 2020, a 9% increase on 2019. If mining, oil and gas exploitation continues, as seems likely, this rich biodiversity could be eroded, exposing the planet to gradual warming.
Jean Marie Takouleu