The Duke and the forest ANOTHER VIEW Robin Pellew

Share
Related Topics
The Independent reports that the Duke of Edinburgh, in his capacity as president of the World Wide Fund for Nature International, has not opposed the proposed mining by Rio Tinto Zinc of the coastal forests of southern Madagascar. It is important to make WWF's position on this issue clear.

Madagascar faces an environmental crisis. Some 90 per cent of the island's forests have been destroyed and its rich topsoil is eroding into the sea. This sediment is suffocating the coral reefs which provide the main breeding ground for the vital inshore fisheries. With its human population doubling every 25 years, Madagascar is a microcosm of the environmental problems facing developing countries.

For this reason WWF has a substantial commitment to conservation in Madagascar. It has been working there for more than 20 years, and spends £4.5m each year. With only 2 per cent of the island under protection, WWF is seeking to create new national parks, to build the professional skills of local managers, and to incorporate environmental awareness into schools. It is in the context of this crisis that the campaign to save the coastal forests from mining must be viewed. In terms of national conservation priorities, mining is a secondary concern comparedto illegal logging, forest clearance and soil erosion. We must not allow an exclusive focus on the mining issue to detract from these other major problems. This is the point that, quite correctly, the Duke of Edinburgh has made.

WWF has strongly advocated social and environmental impact assessments before any decision on mining is made. It has also signed an open letter to the chairman of RTZ calling for a two-year postponement so that alternatives for developing the region can be explored.

In its negotiations WWF has been impressed by the open-minded approach of the government and its willingness to consider proposals for more environmentally- friendly development. It is, of course, the responsibility of the government to decide how best to manage its resources for the benefit of its people.

One option is to zone the area. The biologically rich pristine forests should be protected as a national park. The degraded areas could then be mined on condition that the areas were restored by re-establishing community-owned forests. These plantations would meet the needs of local people for fuel wood and timber, which would take the pressure off the pristine areas. The new national park could then contribute to tourism, generating long-term benefits.

It is these sorts of solutions that WWF is now exploring. Any solution must recognise the political sensitivity of the situation and must focus on generating alternative forms of income for both the government and local communities. WWF therefore believes that the best course of action is for RTZ to reconsider its decision to go ahead and, as a minimum, to agree to the two-year moratorium.

The writer is director of WWF-UK.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

£46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Leonard Nimroy: Spock made me feel like it was good to be the weird kid

Matthew James
 

Errors & Omissions: When is a baroness not a baroness? Titles still cause confusion

Guy Keleny
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003
Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

Dinner through the decades

A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

Philippa Perry interview

The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

Harry Kane interview

The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?