Effective report against illegal logging

With support from IUCN NL, partner organisation Global Witness released a report with staggering data on the illegal export of timber from Burma to China. The report led the Chinese government to take measures against the destructive deforestation in its neighbouring country.

Headerfoto: illegal logging © Piet Wit


The province of Kachin in northern Burma is one of the most forested areas of South-East Asia. Yet trees are being logged at an alarming rate and illegally exported to China, threatening the region’s precious natural areas and the very existence of endangered species such as the tiger. The local people are also suffering from the effects of the deforestation: the numbers of forest fires are increasing, as are periods of extreme drought. In July 2004, Burma was hit by the worst floods in three decades. From an economic perspective, the local people hardly benefit from the presence of the Chinese logging companies. The jobs that are created go to Chinese workers instead of the villagers. Some Chinese logging companies promise to provide for electricity or better water supply in exchange for felling permission. But these promises are rarely kept.


In 2004 and 2005, the British organization Global Witness investigated the destructive logging and timber trade on the China-Burma border. Through fieldwork and interviews Global Witness gained insight into the illegal logging practices and associated problems, addressing questions such as: On what scale does logging occur? Who are involved? What are the consequences? And what must China do to turn the tide? Global Witness presented its findings and recommendations in a revealing report entitled ‘A Choice for China’. Global Witness’ investigations were co-funded by IUCN NL.


Global Witness revealed some startling findings. The report detailed that on average, one log truck carrying about 15 tonnes of timber, logged illegally in Burma, crosses an official Chinese checkpoint every seven minutes. As a result of the worldwide media attention the Global Witness report received, China announced to take measures to end the trade in timber. Thanks to action taken by the Chinese government, illegal exports have declined considerably since then. In 2008, Global Witness reported that imports of logs from Burma fell by more than 70% compared to 2005.

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Mark van der Wal
Senior Expert Ecosystems & Extractives