Tag Archive | National Forests Bill

National Forests Bill enforces forestry control

SA forests critical to industry

…sent to clients 25  Aug…. With exports of forest products over R2bn and an industry that employs 170,000forests people, 66,000 of which are in hands-on forestry operations, the National Forests Bill now tabled in Parliament is of considerable interest.

The little known Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Senzeni Zokwana, has published the draft Bill’s explanatory summary mainly to control and remedy deforestation. This will affect the eleven corporate timber companies operating in South Africa, 1,300 commercial timber farmers and an estimated 20,000 small-scale timber growers.

Sustainability

The Bill states that it will provide for the public trusteeship of the nation’s forestry resources; increase the promotion and enforcement of sustainable forest management and increase the measures to control and remedy deforestation.

woodlandsFrom what it appears, the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAFF) has partially lost control over the whole forestry data collection story, particularly natural woodlands, although it acknowledges that thanks to hired consultants collecting data on the easy question of commercial forestries is where things are more up to date.

Short on facts

One of the major worries is that data on most of 25,000 small-scale timber growers’ data is not collected due to focus on major industries. Whilst intensively managed exotic tree plantations such as pine and eucalyptus (the largest) and wattle are highly regulated, with 70% production going in for pulp & paper production, as far as woodlands are concerned, mainly defined as 10% canopy cover, the areas are mainly exploited for firewood and represent some 40m hectares of natural resource not reported upon.

Last to know anything

On the commercial side where there is an established Investment value of some 1.3m hectares of plantations, wood-roofs-sawmillswhich have an annual sustainable production 20 million tons, such represents the national quoted figure for forest products of over $2bn. Nevertheless, by the time DAFF gets any figures on timber plantations, the data, it seems, is some three years out of date.

The problem is, it appears, that there is absolutely no back data on woodlands either, and trends cannot be calculated. The Bill wants to rectify this. With jobs to create and houses to build, there exists a vacuum in knowledge.

The air we breathe

Bearing in mind that no biomass inventory can therefore actually be represented in calculations for carbon trading purposes in terms of the Reduced Emission from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) the calculations of the current carbon picture “do not have data baseline”, the Bill states. DAFF says it has a problem in that national figures must start somewhere but it seems that the baseline of what the heritage exactly is will take some time.

Looking around, about 0,5% of South Africa’s total land area is covered by natural forests and the word “natural” remains the expression when calculating figures because things look like a bit of a thumb suck. What is there, however, has to be saved and the quantity or area will define what is needed in money and effort.

Kynasa forests

It is known, for example, that there are some 1 700 indigenous tree and shrub species representing some 530 000 ha. of dense growth existing along the south and east coasts and on the southern and south-eastern slopes of inland mountains in South Africa. The other suspected half is spread over the interior plateaux in isolated valleys and ravines. This represents a somewhat scattered picture.

co-2-graphic“Catch up” is therefore called for in data form in order to start calculating the all-important figures surrounding carbon emissions. However, it appears from the emphasis on definitions in the Bill that the first step is to get control of the current mass extermination of South Africa’s woodlands, which is happening at a fast rate.

Stopping the destruction

To do this some clear definitions at law are necessary first, so it seems, and in order to take action it is necessary to amend the National Forests Acts so as to provide for what actually are “natural forests” and “woodlands” at law and to provide for public trusteeship of the nation’s forestry resources.

If land reform is on the horizon shortly, the perhaps the necessity for this Bill is therefore all the more important. Remedies and penalties for acts of deforestation are called for and it would appear that a great deal of thought has been given, by the State Law Advisor as well as DAFF, as to whether the Bill should remain as it is as a Section 75 Bill and therefore not referable to the Provinces through the NCOP or the Traditional Council of Leaders.

One gets the idea that this is a technical Bill rather than a Bill that needs emotive local participation at this stage.
Previous articles on category subject
New Air Quality Act will deal with major polluters – ParlyReportSA
Carbon offsets paper still open – ParlyReportSA
SA’s COP21 climate change paper debated – ParlyReportSA

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