Charcoal Energy Consumption Puts World’s 2nd Largest Tropical Forest Under Threat
…Wood energy consumption in DRC put at 90%
Congolese President, Felix Tshisekedi has raised alarm that the 500 million acres, Congo Basin forest, world’s second-largest tropical forest, is under serious threat following the inability of his country to harness its huge hydro-electricity potentials.
The forest, which covers two-thirds of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) or around 1.5 million kilometres square, is threatened by the production of charcoal, a key energy resource for inhabitants because of the lack of electricity supplies. Over 40 million inhabitants are said to solely depend on the Congo Basin for their livelihoods and over time, the expansion of industrial logging has posed a great threat to their lives and wellbeing.
The President said the lack of programs to deliver clean and renewable energy is a direct threat to the country’s forests, as more than 90% of the energy consumed in the DRC comes from wood. “At the current pace of population growth and energy demands, our forests risk extinction by 2100,” Tshisekedi declared at an energy forum last weekend.
Against the huge untapped hydropower potential the DRC possesses, the leader said the country must get past the “paradox of being a country that is one of the world’s top five in hydroelectric potential but one that ranks among the worst in access to electricity.”
According to the International Hydropower Association (IHA), the DRC hosts the largest concentration of hydropower potential in the world at the Inga Falls, about 150 km from the mouth of the Congo River. With this, the country could provide a significant portion – up to 40% – of Africa’s electricity needs.
Last year, DRC authorities announced a deal for a Spanish-Chinese consortium to develop the Inga 3 hydro-electric mega-dam project on the Congo River rapids, which is one of the world’s most powerful and centre to the country’s energy plans. The country presently has two Inga projects that were completed in the 1970s and 1980s respectively.
Reports say however that the $12 billion project which has been on the cards for many years, and part of the proposed Grand Inga project, has faced significant barriers to progress. The IHA says plans have been revised several times to increase the likelihood of attracting sufficient finance in today’s investment climate.
The current Inga site plans include a total of eight power stations, two of which are completed. The plan has also been delayed by likely local impact of the hydroelectric project, expected to be Africa’s largest, with both residents and environmental activists expressing concerns, as well as experts doubting its viability.
As observed by analysts, a major and recurrent barrier to implementing the hydropower project after many years of conception was the political instability in the DRC. With relative stability now in the country after President Tshisekedi came into power earlier this year, the DRC has to move fast to save Africa’s endangered forest resources, which also suffers from illegal logging.
Along with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the swamp-struck tropical forest of the Congo Basin covers portions of Cameroon, Central African Republic (CAR), Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, and Gabon, spanning about 695,000 square miles.
The Congo Basin forest plays a crucial role in countering global warming. The forest absorbs global carbon emissions together with the Amazon and South American rain forests.