Are the losses irrecoverable? What experts say about deforestation in Belarus | Belarus: a view from Europe – special project DW | DW

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Belarusians are worried about the massive deforestation, reports of this have recently appeared more and more in the media and Telegram channels. The Ministry of Forestry says that all logging is planned, and ecologists have long been concerned about how the state manages forest resources.

Deforestation volumes increased after the adoption of the Forest Code

“Yes, we understand the citizens who write, they say, all their lives they came to visit their grandparents in the village, there was a forest, and today they cut it down. But if they cut it down, then it’s time to harvest the crop, which was created specifically for this”, – said in a statement by the press service of the Ministry of Forestry.

The ministry assures that all deforestation in Belarus is planned, timber harvesting is carried out mainly in commercial forests, which are intended for this. The ministry also notes that the annual volume of logging has increased by 46% over five years, but this, in their opinion, does not pose a serious threat to Belarusian forests.

Inessa Bolotina

Inessa Bolotina, manager of environmental projects of the public organization “Bagna”, confirms that deforestation in Belarus has indeed been increasing over the past years. Volumes have increased since 2017, when the new Forestry Code came into force. The document talks about the reduction of forest shelter belts around settlements and roads, a decrease in the age of trees for felling and an increase in the number of
operational forests.

Loss of forest also occurs for natural reasons: windblows, bark beetles, due to which the peak of sanitary felling fell in 2017-2019. Then a lot of “unplanned timber” appeared in Belarus. The Ministry of Forestry and other forest holders, such as the Presidential Property Management Department, have built new processing plants. The problems with the bark beetle are over, and the enterprises are still working and require raw materials.

Timber prices hit historic highs

“About five years ago, the forestry enterprises equipped sawmilling lines and began to increase the volume of processing. This affected the business: if earlier the forest was freely available, now there is a queue for each cube. At the auction for one lot, 10-15 participants”, – notes the interlocutor of DW Andrey, who has been working in the field of timber processing for more than 20 years.

Woodpile of cut trees in the forest

Belarusian timber is in demand on world markets

Meanwhile, prices for timber on the world market have reached historic highs in recent months. “World prices in all previous years were kept at the level of $ 300 to $ 500 per thousand cubic meters, this year it reached $ 1,670, the peak of prices was in May. Now they have come to the level of $ 550,” commented Lev Lvovsky, economist at BEROS. According to him, the rise in prices is due to the fact that in developed countries the money accumulated during the pandemic is being invested by people in construction, while traditional suppliers of timber are still unable to reach pre-pandemic capacities.

Belarus benefits from this – its timber is in demand even in those markets where Belarusian suppliers had no chance before. In January-March 2021, the export of “wood, products from it, cork and products from it, as well as products from materials for weaving” reached $ 430 million, for the same period last year the amount was $ 345 million.

Belarusian products go mainly to Europe: Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Germany, Sweden, and supplies to China have increased recently. Sectoral European sanctions in no way affect either Belarusian woodworking or the export of raw wood and wooden furniture.

About a third of the forests in Belarus are artificial plantings

Problems with deforestation, which experts have been talking about for a long time, have now become obvious. Belarusian ecologist Andrei Abramchuk draws attention to the increase in the number of clear cuttings, due to which the forest ceases to exist as an ecosystem.

The number of natural forests is also decreasing, in their place, as a rule, artificial plantings of monocultures appear, which, according to the ecologist, are unlikely to ever become a forest in all its biodiversity. In addition, monocultures are not resistant to both climatic changes and outbreaks of insect pests.

Ecologist Andrei Abramchuk

Ecologist Andrei Abramchuk

But the increase in the area of ​​artificial plantings gives grounds to officials of the Ministry of Forestry to assert that there is no loss of forests in Belarus. “Already now, about a third of the forests in Belarus are artificial plantations, under the age of 75. I think that in 2010-2019 the area of ​​natural forests in the country has decreased by 250 – 300 thousand hectares. And most of these losses are irrecoverable,” Abramchuk.

“State environmental institution National Park” Pripyatsky “as the owner of a wood-processing enterprise with a parquet production line in Lyaskovichi (a village in the Petrikovsky district of the Gomel region. – Ed.) allocated plots of oak in six forestry enterprises of the Gomel region. In the national park and the local forestry enterprise, the oak for the parquet has already been cut down, now they will cut it down from the neighbors, “says Inessa Bolotina. In the Zhitkovichi district of the Gomel region, two wildlife sanctuaries were liquidated last year, and, as the ecologist notes,” this, of course, coincided completely by accident with the construction of a pellet plant “in the area.

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