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Global map reveals 12 million hectares of forest at risk: Report

India Blooms News Service | 04 Dec 2015, 01:09 am
Paris, Dec 3 (IBNS): A new report released at the United Nations climate change conference in Paris has revealed that a forest area larger than Portugal is at risk from coal mining worldwide, with forests in Australia, Canada, Indonesia, India, Colombia and the United States particularly vulnerable.
The report Double Jeopardy: Coal’s threat to Forests, by forests and rights NGO Fern, provides the first global map  of where forests are at risk of being torn down for coal mines. 
 
"Burning coal and destroying forests both release carbon into the atmosphere, so when forests are cleared for coal mines the threat to the planet intensifies," the report said.  
 
Overlaying coal mining concession and forest cover data for four of the world’s five biggest coal producers, among other countries, the report shows at least 11.9 million hectares of forest across the world are threatened.   
 
“These maps give the first global picture of where forests are being destroyed for coal mining, a ‘double whammy’ for the climate,” said Saskia Ozinga, Fern’s campaign co-ordinator.  
 
“Negotiators gathering in Paris need to recognize that clamping down on coal mining would not only reduce carbon emissions, it would help to save forests and all of their benefits,”  Ozinga said.
 
The report finds that forests in the following five countries are under urgent threat. 
- In Indonesia, 8.6 million hectares of forest is threatened: almost nine percent of the nation’s total forest cover.
 
- In Australia, coal mining threatens more than 1.3 million hectares of forest, or an area equal to more than 2.1 million football fields. 
- In Canada, more than 1.1 million hectares of forest is threatened in the province of British Colombia alone.
- In both India and Colombia, coal mining threatens more than 250,000 hectares of forest, or the equivalent of 400,000 football fields. 
- In the United States more than 211,000 hectares of forest is threatened by mining activity across the Appalachian States.
 
The report recommended that strengthening the rights of communities who live in forested areas is one way to reduce emissions in many of the impacted countries. 
 
“Repeated evidence shows that the best guardians of forests are the people who live in them,” Ozinga added. "Protecting communities’ rights to forests with strong land rights is essential to keeping forests standing, and where coal’s beneath it, keeping it in the ground.”  
 
The report cited the case of India, where the landmark Forest Rights Act (FRA) has been a vital safeguard against wiping out forests for coal, notably in the struggle between the UK company Essar and the Indian government on the one hand, and local ‘tribal’ people on the other, over the former’s plans to create an open cast coal mine in the Mahan forest, in Madhya Pradesh. 
 
According to the report, forests under threat in Australia, the world’s fifth biggest coal producer, include Leard State Forest, where the development of three open-cut coal mines would destroy some of the nation’s last unbroken remnants of critically endangered Box-Gum Woodland  and lead to a greenhouse gas impact higher than that all but 50 of the world’s nations. The mines will also destroy 38 sacred Aboriginal burial and heritage sites.
 
Rick Laird, a local farmer whose family have been in the area for five generations, has been at the heart of protests against the mines. In November 2014, he was arrested for chaining himself to a coal mining digger alongside Australian rugby star, David Pocock.  
 
Laird said: “This is not just about climate change, or divesting [from coal projects], but about farmers being directly impacted by lack of water and dust pollution.”
 
Dr Jess Neumann of GIS Mapping Services, who produced the maps for the report, said that the scope of the coal-deforestation problem is certainly greater than this report suggests. 
 
“Using the best available global forest and coal mining data, we’ve shown where coal mining threatens forest habitats across the world,” said Neumann.  “The scale of the threat, however, is far greater than we’ve calculated due to the dearth of information worldwide about coal mining.”
 
“There are many cases where coal-mining data are unavailable, or only provided in a form unsuitable for this kind of analysis. There’s a clear need for much greater transparency. Governments and companies should be obliged to provide up-to-date GIS boundary data for all coal mining concessions.”
 

Global map reveals 12 million hectares of forest at risk: Report

India Blooms News Service
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