FOCUS: Managing trade-offs
Although starting from a low base, deforestation in the Congo Basin is expected to increase significantly as investments in agriculture, transportation, mining and energy grow in response to global, regional and local demand. But the trade-off between economic growth and forest protection is not a done deal. According to the authors of Deforestation Trends in the Congo Basin: Reconciling economic growth and forest protection, there are steps policymakers can take now to minimize forest loss and put in place "forest-friendly" growth, for example by prioritizing agricultural expansion on degraded lands or planning transport corridors away from forests of high conservation value.
In the mining sector, early planning for the development of mineral resources (including associated infrastructure such as roads, railroads and energy) could help reduce the footprint and enhance the sustainability of development. The World Bank's Africa Region and Oil, Gas, and Mining Policy Division propose to test state-of-the-art land use planning approaches in the case of the "Tridom" area (the Tri-national Dja-Odzala-Minkébé area, straddling the Republic of Congo, Cameroon and Gabon). The area includes both a network of protected areas (with a very high concentration of elephants and great apes), and one of the largest untapped iron ore reserves on earth. It also has significant hydroelectric power potential and is home to indigenous peoples who depend on the forest for their survival.
The documentary film Heart of Iron, produced by WWF with support from the World Bank, UNESCO and the European Union, explored the tensions between different objectives and visions of the Tridom area. It used striking 3D animations to visualize the likely impact of mining and dams without prescribing easy solutions.
This new activity ("Balancing Mining Development and Forest Conservation in the Congo Basin") will take a participatory approach to represent the interests at stake, and seek to generate multiple scenarios that advance the dialogue on sustainability and cross-sectoral tradeoffs. It builds on previous PROFOR work that looked at the thorny issue of artisanal and small scale mining in critical ecosystems and protected areas.