The government and environmental groups in Madagascar are sounding the alarm over the accelerating deforestation on their Indian Ocean island.
“It’s really a disaster. We are reforesting, but that does not mean anything if people continue to burn and clear land,” Environment Minister Alexandre Georget said.
He said mafia groups are at work on the island, which lies off the coast of south-eastern Africa.
“These mafias pay for hundreds of people, who are fleeing drought and infertile soils in the south of the country to travel to protected areas – notably the Menabe forest – to clear land and grow maize,” Georget said earlier this week.
The 210,000-hectare Menabe Antimena protected area had lost 7 per cent of its total area in 2017, according to the World Wildlife Fund.
Over the past 60 years, 44 per cent of the Malagasy natural forests have disappeared, according to a study by the CIRAD agricultural research organisation.
Other estimates are even higher.
“At this rhythm and without stringent countermeasures, the country’s entire forest will disappear in the next 30 years,” said Ndranto Razakamanarina, the Head of the Environmental Alliance Voahary Gasy.