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October 6, 2016

Ukrainian media accuses Holzindustrie Schweighofer of destroying Ukraine’s forests

Ukrainian media accuses Holzindustrie Schweighofer of destroying Ukraine’s forests

Foreign corporations are apparently destructing Ukraine’s forests, by importing thousands of tons of illegally cut timber through the western boarders of the country.

As Kyiv Post reported, environmental and anti-corruption activists allege that companies operating sawmills near Ukraine’s border with Romania, Poland and Hungary are processing the illegally cut wood, in violation of Ukrainian forestry and customs law, as well as a recent moratorium on log exports.

Blaming the customs service, the World Wildlife Fund Ukraine coordinator Bohdan Prots, commented that “without the customs, none of this would be possible. The state is losing tens of millions of hryvnias.”

The illegal logging cause major losses in the Ukrainian budget through the loss of tax revenue. Also, the big quantity of logging is destroying the forests in the Carpahtians: floods that once used to be sucked by the trees are now destroying the local rivers, polluting them with mud.

It’s a very serious situation, but nobody is thinking about it seriously,” Prots said. “We have situations where there was rain for four days, but the river water is still dirty because there were no trees to filter it.”

Contract data obtained by the Kyiv Post shows that Austrian firm Holzindustrie Schweighofer concluded agreements with 129 separate state-owned forestry enterprises in Ukraine for the export of lumber. Schweighofer operates a number of sawmills in Romania along the border with Ukraine. One of these, according to company statistics, located in the Romanian city of Radauti, imported 95 percent of the company’s Ukrainian supply in 2015, at 940,000 cubic meters.

Moreover, there are 1,239,545 cubic meters of logs were exported from Ukraine to Romania in 2015, which is around 75% of all Ukrainian wood exports to Romania that went to Schweighofer, as shown by the State Fiscal Service statistics.

Schweighofer employees weren’t available to talk upon the issue. Neither the The regional customs office in Chernivtsi, a city of 255,000 people located 527 kilometers southwest of Kyiv, responded to the request for information.

Around 74% of Ukraine’s forest land is owned by the government, through the State Forest Agency, but the illegal logging is happening everywhere in Ukraine.

Andis Priendieks, a Latvian businessman working in the Vinnytsia forest industry, told the Kyiv Post he was shot at after exposing a scheme under which a local state forestry enterprise was selling off its forests by marking down the exports as firewood.

Much of the logging is concentrated in the historic region of Bukovyna, where the forests had until recently remained almost untouched. Activists with the Patriotic Community of Bukovyna now say that up to 60 percent of Bukovyna’s forests have been destroyed in the past few years, as reported by Kyiv Post.

Yet, the evidence of the illegal logging and smuggling is hard to get.

Source of the article: Kyiv Post

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