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News 01 Dec 15

Albania Bans Logging to Save Forests

A ten-year moratorium on logging accompanied by high fines for offenders is expected to go into force in January in Albania, also stopping timber exports.

Fatjona Mejdini
BIRN
Tirana
A forest in Tropoja in northern Albania | Photo: Wikimedia.

Albania will impose a 10-year moratorium from January 2016 that will ban logging in all forests and the export of timber.

The draft law prepared by the environmental ministry is likely to be approved by parliament in December and will allow only municipality representatives to cut down trees to meet the needs of people who burn wood for winter fuel.

After the ban is imposed, all manufacturers using wood to produce goods will be forced to import it.

The draft legislation envisages a fine of around 36,000 euros for offenders who flout the ban.

The authorities brought in the legislation after Albania’s forests were severely damaged over the last 25 years by illegal logging, often carried out in collaboration with officials in charge of protecting the forests.

A Balkan Investigative Reporting Network investigation showed that in 2011, up to 46 million cubic feet of trees were felled illegally in Albania — the equivalent of 11,600 acres, an area larger than the size of Tirana, the capital.

Another BIRN investigation in 2009 also highlighted how corruption and incompetence prevented an official crackdown on illegal loggers.

Sazan Guri, the head of the Citizens’ Office for Environment Protection, a network of around 20 organizations which were active in pushing for the moratorium, told BIRN that it was essential because it will take a long time to replace lost woodlands.

“It was about the time to stop the logging because our observations show that the actual forested area doesn't exceed 10 per cent of the country’s surface. In 1943, a study showed that the forested surface in Albania was 83 per cent of the whole country,” he said.

Guri said however that the moratorium on its own does not guarantee success.

"Now an energetic process of forestation has to start and citizens must be pushed to do that, not government representatives. In too many cases, government officials and representatives of local municipalities are not honest about the numbers of new trees planted," he said.

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