UNESCO delegates inspect mass logging in Białowieża
PR dla Zagranicy
A UNESCO team is travelling to the Białowieża primeval forest in eastern Poland to inspect the Environment Ministry's logging plans.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature will determine whether the government's scheme to increase timber logging quotas several-fold complies with UNESCO's requirements on the protection and conservation of the forest.
The trip comes a week after Environment Minister Jan Szyszko officially announced the launch of intensive timber harvesting operations in the UNESCO-listed forest under a ten-year scheme.
Some 400,000 trees are to be cleared as part of "protective measures" to counter an outbreak of bark beetle affecting the forest's spruce population, the ministry says.
The move has met with fierce criticism from environmentalists and academics, who say that the felling spree will impact the unique forest's fragile ecosystem. They argue that the beetle infestation is a natural occurrence in the forest's life cycle.
Ahead of the visit, Minister Szyszko said that he would not seek to have Białowieża struck from the list of World Heritage sites, as some media reported. Earlier, however, Szyszko said that efforts to put the forest on the list in the first place was "a mistake" as it interferes with forest management.
Designated a World Heritage site in 1979, the Białowieża primeval forest is home to some 20,000 animal species, including the European bison. It is the only remnant of pristine woodlands that once stretched across Europe, and the last such forest in the northern hemisphere.
Non-governmental organisations, government officials and environmental experts will accompany the UNESCO representatives throughout their inspection, which winds up on Monday. (aba/pk)