UNEP Study Confirms DR Congo Biodiversity Under Threat
Kinshasa – A major Post-Conflict Environmental Assessment of the Democratic Republic of Congo by the U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP) confirms the country’s wealth of natural resources, but warns that 190 species – including critically endangered Mountain gorillas – are in peril, that the illegal bushmeat trade has devastated biodiversity, and that tropical rainforests are an untapped source of ecosystem revenue worth $900 million annually.
DR Congo possesses half of Africa’s forests and water resources and trillion dollar mineral reserves, and could become a powerhouse of African development provided multiple pressures on its natural resources are urgently addressed.
But the study, Post-Conflict Environmental Assessment of the Democratic Republic of Congo: Synthesis Report for Policy Makers, warns of alarming trends including increased deforestation, species depletion, heavy metal pollution and land degradation from mining, as well as an acute drinking water crisis that has left an estimated 51 million Congolese without access to potable water.
The outcomes of the two-year assessment were released in Kinshasa by UNEP executive director Achim Steiner and DR Congo Environment Minister, José Endundo.
“This assessment confirms the DR Congo’s unique endowment of natural resources and how they can contribute to sustainable economic growth, but also reveals the legacy of using these resources in fuelling much of the conflict and human tragedy that has plagued its people for too long,” Steiner said.
The study’s good news is that most of DR Congo’s environmental degradation is not irreversible and there has been substantial progress in strengthening environmental governance.
For example, through steps such as regular anti-poaching patrols, the Congolese Wildlife Authority (ICCN) has secured the Virunga National Park, which at the peak of the DR Congo crisis was losing the equivalent of 89 hectares of forest each day due to illegal logging.
However, the country’s rapidly growing population of nearly 70 million — most of whom directly depend on natural resources for their survival — and intense international competition for raw materials are adding to the multiple pressures on DR Congo’s natural resource base.
Key findings include:
DR Congo has the highest level of biodiversity in Africa, yet 190 species are classified as critically endangered, endangered or vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
Up to 1.7 million tonnes of bushmeat (mainly antelope, duiker, monkey and wild boar) are harvested annually from unregulated hunting and poaching, contributing to species depletion.
DR Congo’s tropical rainforests extend over 1.55 million km2 and account for more than half of Africa’s forest resources, making them a critical global ecosystem service provider and a potential source of up to US$900 million in annual revenue up to 2030 through REDD+.
For more information, visit www.unep.org/drcongo.