Last Minute Call to Stop the Chainsaws

„Please help us to stop the loggers in the forest!“ With this call, villagers from Santa Rosa del Limón in Colombia urge us to help them saving their rainforest and livelihoods. So far, the forest in the region has been spared from logging. Now, a large timber company has started marking trees and dredging rivers to transport logs.

Marked tree in the rainforest So far, 4,000 gian rainforest trees have been marked for chainsaws.

Since the middle of this year, the timber company Maderas del Darién – Pizano S.A. has been marking trees inside the rainforest along the River Atrato. At least 4,000 giant trees are to be felled. Rivers and streams across the region are being dammed, dredged and straightened in order to transport the logs by water. Heavy machinery is compacting and ploughing up the soil and destroying precious ecosystems.

The situation in the Chocó region has been extremely tense for decades. The military, armed paramilitary groups and security companies working for timber, palm oil, banana and mining companies are violently oppressing the population. Many have been evicted from their villagers or have been forced to flee. They are now living inside humanitarian protection zones which have been set up, while companies are plundering their land.

„The timber company Maderas del Darién - Pizano S.A. is destroying the rainforest in the belief that they will never be held accountable“, according to villagers from Santa Rosa del Limón and Vigía de Curbaradó. “Government functionaries and administrators are their accomplices“.

Maderas del Darién belongs to the timber corporation Pizano S.A. Their owner, billionaire Luis Carlos Sarmiento, is Colombia’s richest man. The rainforests of the Chocó are especially biodiverse. They contain on average 400 species of trees and 700 species of vertebrates per hectare, a global record. Many animals and plants are endemic, i.e. not found anywhere else on earth.

Further information

Villagers from the River Atrato area in Colombia’s Chocó region want to stop diggers and chainsaws and are calling for international solidarity. Please take part in our protest alert and write to the Colombian government.

In September this year, The UN Environment Programme and the international police organisation Interpol published their latest report about „Illegal Logging, Tax Fraud and Laundering in Tropical Forests“. An international timber mafia is responsible for up to 90% of illegal logging of rainforests. Corrupt politicians, civil servants and the military in different countries are deeply involved in the plunder of rainforests. Interpol lists 30 different means by which globally organised criminals bring illegal timber onto the market and launder their profits, which amount to 25-75 billion Euros a year.

The Colombian timber company Pizano S.A. portrays itself as a green company, citing their FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certificate which is awarded for supposedly ‚sustainable forest management‘. The timber industry uses such labels to greenwash its image and mislead customers.

Video and reportage about the planned illegal loggings in the Chocó.

David Vollrath from Rainforest Rescue hands over the signatures to the diplomatic secretary Handover of the signatures in the Colombian embassy

Jan 24, 2013

Colombia: Stop the chainsaws

On January 17, 2013, Rainforest Rescue had an appointment at the Colombian Embassy in Berlin. We presented senior embassy staff a petition with 72,877 signatures protesting the impending illegal clearance of 4,000 rainforest trees in Colombia’s Atrato region.

The community of Santa Rosa de El Limón in Colombia’s Atrato region is still struggling to protect its forest against the chainsaws of the transnational Maderas del Darién – Pizano S.A. timber group. Rainforest Rescue supported the community’s campaign with an online petition and public relations work. On January 17, 2013, we had an appointment with diplomatic secretary for environmental affairs Karol Daza Bula at the Colombian Embassy in Berlin, and presented her the petition with 72,877 signatures.

In the meeting, we called on the embassy to work for the protection of the people of Santa Rosa de El Limón and their rainforest. The U.S. timber group has no legal basis for its plan to fell 4,000 trees on community property. Santa Rosa de El Limón has held a collective land title – and therefore the right to independent administration of its territory – since 2000. The community forest is also protected by law. Business projects may only be realized on the land with the approval of the municipality, and Santa Rosa de El Limón is vehemently opposed to the clearing plans of Maderas del Darién.

Rainforest Rescue called on the Colombian ambassador to advocate the rights of the affected communities and demand that his government put an end to the illicit timber trade in Atrato. We also called for the Colombian justice system to look into the case and file charges against Maderas del Darién senior executives. 

We were assured that the embassy would forward our petition to the Colombian government authorities, and that we would be informed of action taken by the government in the matter.  

We would like to thank everyone who supported the online petition.

Dear Sir/Madam,

The timber company Maderas del Darién - Pizano S.A. and companies connected with it are widely known to have been logging rainforests inside Colombia’s Chocó region since the 1990s. They are destroying one of the planet’s richest and most biodiverse biomes.

Plans by Maderas del Darién - Pizano S.A. to cut down trees in the region along the River Atrato violate the local population’s land rights. Since 2000, families from the community Santa Rosa del Limón have been in possession of collective land titles, recognised by the Colombian government.

In this case, the timber company is acting as if they were discharging the state’s functions and duties. They are justifying logging with claims that they will finance health and education in the villages. Furthermore, they are manipulating community councils and are putting their business interests before people’s concerns. A company ship has even been observed to be transporting paramilitaries.

I therefore support the following demands made by the community:

+ I urge you to preserve the region’s environment and biodiversity and to protect human rights and the rights of community councils inside the protected forest;

+ Access by loggers to further areas within the Chocó region, the proposed fellings and the expansion of logging in the region must be prevented;

+ I call on you to order the immediate withdrawal of construction machinery from the region and to stop all further destruction;

+ I call on you to anul any existing permits which may have been granted by the Codechocó or the Environment Ministry for logging-related activities in the region;

+ I urge you to convene an Inquiry involving the Environment Ministry, Home Office, the Public Ombudsman and human rights organisations to evaluate the harm which Maderas del Darién has inflicted on people and the environment in the region;

+ Please investigate breaches of the law and prosecute those responsible for environmental damages in the region.

Former paramilitaries convicted by Colombian courts have stated that the timber company has been financing their armed units. I am therefore deeply concerned about the safety of the inhabitants of the River Atrato region. Please take all necessary measures to protect the population from violence and attacks.

Yours faithfully

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