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Fiji halts logging on Sleeping Giant

The Fiji Government confirmed this week that it has stopped a logging company from removing trees from a large area of the “Sleeping Giant” mountain range in Sabeto. Environment Minister Dr Mahendra Reddy said the logging company had been issued a stop work notice, saying it had not carried out an environmental impact assessment before beginning its operations. Source: The Fiji Times

The action follows complaints from residents living near the mountain range, more than two months ago, that logging activities were defacing the scenic hillsides, causing landslips and shallowing the river at the foot of the mountain range.

The Fiji Times has been trying unsuccessfully for two months to get answers to its questions from the Forestry Department, the iTaukei Land Trust Board and the Environment Ministry about the logging operation.

The Fiji Times team following up on the complaints found large gashes in the forest and a scarred mountainside, riddled with a network of roads for logging trucks. When the logging company was approached in October, it directed The Fiji Times to a landowners’ representative, who claimed the company was contracted to supply wood to Nabou Green Energy Ltd and Fiji Pine Group.

However, both companies denied any involvement with the logging company.

Fiji Pine Group executive chairman Faiz Khan said the group knew nothing about any issues between the logging company and the Environment Ministry.

Mr Khan said the group’s wood milling company, Tropik Wood Industries Ltd, had no written agreement with any wood supplier for the supply of biomass fuel for its factory boiler.

“Tropik does not have any written agreement with Premier or any other contractor that supplies wood fuel for firing its boiler,’ he said.

“Tropik runs a cogeneration boiler that uses biomass fuel. We buy biomass fuel from many suppliers at mill gate price.

“Many companies such as Fiji Sugar Corporation, local manufacturers who have boilers also buy biomass fuel at mill gate price. “None of us are involved in harvesting operations for this biomass fuel.”

Nabou Green Energy Ltd team manager Avijit Chowdhury earlier told this newspaper that his company was unaware of any of the activities carried out in the Sabeto area. “Any malpractices would have been dealt with by the Ministry of Forests as they monitor the logging licences,” he said.

“Logging contractors that contravene the licences are severely reprimanded and their licences revoked.

“Furthermore, it is a requirement for the logging contractors to assist in reforestation of logged areas.

“As far as Nabou Green Energy is concerned, we do not allow harvesting of any native species.

“Our policy is always to support development of fruit trees and the vegetation process for each community and we also do not allow logging of fruit trees.

“Moreover, we advocate only for the removal of invasive species such as the African Tulip in conjunction with the Ministry of Forests.”

The logging company has not answered The Fiji Times questions on the types and volume of trees logged by it.

Nearby residents, however, claim that aside from the African Tulips, raintrees and fruit trees have also been harvested.

A Forestry Department source said the logging company had a grazing licence which was renewed every six months, subject to a review.

He said the holder of a grazing licence, issued after approval from TLTB, was allowed to clear trees or clear felled-wood to make way for livestock on flatland or clear plains.

However, there were conditions to the licence, including that the environment was not impacted.

Questions sent to TLTB in November and earlier this month have remained unanswered.

Responding to an email from The Fiji Times on December 19, TLTB southwest region manager Soloveni Masi said answers to the newspaper’s queries had been sent to TLTB’s media team.