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Macau Daily Times: Land rights key in increasing forests
As seen on Macau Daily Times
May 31, 2012
Elaine Kurtenbach, Shanghai
Ensuring that forest dwellers have rights over their land is vital for slowing the deforestation that may be causing up to a fifth of the world's emissions of greenhouse gases, according to a report released yesterday.
The report by the Washington-based NGO Rights and Resources Initiative is aimed at encouraging next month's U.N. summit in Rio de Janeiro to tackle the politically contentious issue of land reforms.
RRI says studies in China, India and Brazil show local residents must have a say over how forests are used to ensure sustainability.
China has made significant progress in restoring its forest cover while also allowing residents to make a living from plantations, forest products and tourism, the RRI report says.
In southwestern China's Tengchong area, local communities are allowed to vote on whether to manage the forests collectively, much as they would traditionally, or to manage sections individually.
Reforms like those have aided replanting, increasing China's forest cover by 1.6 percent in 2000-2010. India saw a 0.5 percent increase, while all other Asian countries saw no change, or declines.
"In Asia, most governments continue to deny local land rights and to promote economic activities that result in deforestation. Forests in the region are being depleted, communities are losing their homelands, and corruption is common," the RRI report says.
Without reforms to protect local residents' rights, the problems will only grow worse, says Andy White, a coordinator with RRI.
Conservation groups are pushing for the Rio gathering to include the issue of land rights.
Among their priorities is the REDD program — for Reduction of Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation, a global program that provides funds to countries seeking to cut emissions through good forest governance, protecting biodiversity and the rights of indigenous peoples.
The aim is to provide incentives to leave forests standing, in many cases retraining people whose livelihoods are linked to the forest — or its destruction.
Land use rights remain a touchy topic, especially in China, where land grabs often provoke public protests. Local officials barred RRI from taking journalists to see the projects it has backed in Tengchong, the district surrounding Houqiao.
Posted By David Robeck at 11:37am on June 01, 2012
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