Just days before Myanmar, also known as Burma, implements a ban on exporting raw logs, the Environmental Investigative Agency (EIA) has released a new report that captures the sheer scale of the country’s illegal logging crisis. According to the EIA, new data shows that 72 percent of logs exported from Myanmar between 2000-2013 were illegally harvested.
"The forestry sector is in crisis [in Myanmar]. Logging is rampant, transparency non-existent. Drivers include consumers’ need for cheap raw materials in the form of logs and in particular Myanmar’s precious hardwoods," EIA Forest Campaign Leader, Faith Doherty, told mongabay.com, adding "this situation is acknowledged by the government and we hope that support for reform in the forestry sector from the international community becomes a reality."
Analyzing new figures released by Myanmar’s Ministry of Environmental Conservation and Forestry and published by the country’s Eleven Media group, the EIA found that official export data accounted for only 28 percent of logs imported into other countries. This means, the rest—over three-fourths of the total—was likely illegally logged and exported. In all, 22.8 million cubic meters of logs were imported to various countries around the world from Myanmar during the period in question.
"Data of this kind has not been published before; lack of transparency remains a major concern in Myanmar and the country still does not report trade data to mainstream global bodies such as the United Nations," reads the EIA briefing Data Corruption: Exposing the True Scale of Logging in Myanmar.
Illegal logging is a global scourge, accounting for some 15-30 percent of deforestation in the tropics and worth an estimated $30-$100 billion in ill-gotten gains annually. Not only does the practice devastate forests, harm biodiversity, and emit carbon, but it also imperils forest communities and robs developing countries of revenue. In Myanmar’s case, the EIA estimates that the country lost out on $6 billion in revenue over the 14 year period, four times the country’s health and education budget during 2013-2014.