Kinshasa, 10 October 2011 - With half of Africa's forests and water resources and trillion-dollar mineral reserves, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) could become a powerhouse of African development provided multiple pressures on its natural resources are urgently addressed.
A major Post-Conflict Environmental Assessment of the DRC by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) underlines the global significance and extraordinary potential of the country's natural and mineral resources.
However, the study 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 which has left an estimated 51 million Congolese without access to potable water.
The outcomes of the two-year assessment have been released today in Kinshasa, by UNEP's Executive Director, Mr Achim Steiner, and the DRC's Environment Minister, Mr José Endundo.
Conducted in conjunction with the DRC's Ministry of Environment, Nature Conservation and Tourism, the assessment highlights successful initiatives and identifies strategic opportunities to restore livelihoods, promote good governance and support the sustainability of the DRC's post-conflict economic reconstruction, and reinforce ongoing peace consolidation.
The study's good news is that most of the DRC'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 has secured the Virunga National Park, which at the peak of the DRC's crisis was losing the equivalent of 89 hectares of forest each day due to illegal fuelwood harvesting.
However, the country's rapidly growing population of nearly 70 million people - 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 the DRC's natural resource base.
NB: Press Cutting Service
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