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Nearly half of the 206 protected areas in central Africa are under threat from the oil and gas industries, a report published Tuesday by the Central African Forest Observatory (OFAC) said.
If mining is included, it swells to 60% — or some 800 000 square kilometres — said Georges Belmond Tchoumba, regional coordinator of the World Wide Fund for Nature’s forestry programme in central Africa.
The protected areas of Central Africa cover 15 percent of the land area and five percent of the marine area of the region.
“Permits have already been allocated for 27% of protected areas” in 10 African countries, including Cameroon, Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Gabon, Tchoumba told an online conference.
Experts are urging governments in the region to explore using their natural resources more responsibly, striking a compromise between conservation and economic development.
“We are aware of the significant pressure of the extractive industries on protected areas in particular, but also on conservation areas broadly speaking,” Tchoumba said.
The extractive industries constitute an economically powerful sector. Meanwhile, several mineral-rich countries such as the Central African Republic are among the world’s poorest.
Experts recommended the banning of extractive industries in areas rich in biodiversity. They said these industries could be allowed in other areas under strict guidelines with monitoring to assess their environmental impact.