The Ivindo National Park

Today I would like to talk about a serious issue in my native country (Gabon), the struggle of a country in a development process (since 1960) where unfortunately most of the time development and economy is more valuable than preservation.

The launch of a huge project for the exploitation of iron from Bélinga, in the north-east of Gabon, is expected towards the end of this year, whit first shipments of iron exported to China (the only customer) scheduled for 2011.

According to most Europeans analysts, this is a flagship project for the development of Gabon after petroleum, with 1,600 billion CFA francs (about 3.5 billion dollars) investment, planned to build 560 km of railways track, a deepwater port, and created around 30,000 jobs, according to the Gabonese Ministry of Mines.
The Bélinga project aims to extract a billion tons of reserves of iron with a content of 60% for decades, said Auguste Richard Onouviet, the Natural Resources secretary of State. The project will be financed and executed by Chinese companies, Gabon have signed an exclusive contract with China.

However, the extent of environmental damage that could lead to the implementation of the project has attracted serious controversy since last month in this central African country, Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from all over the World denounced the environmental damage that would lead to the realization of a hydroelectric dam in the forest of Gabon, notably in the Ivindo National Park.

Brainforest' President and my old friend, Marc Ona Essangui is well aware and quite worry about the danger of severe flooding in the National Park of the Ivindo. Like most NGOs, Brainforest has been deeply involve in fighting the Gabonese' government on different environment issues and strongly require a environmental impact studies prior to the start of any work on the Bélinga Project.

For those of you who never heard about Gabon and his awesome tropical forest, the Ivindo National Park is one of the most important cross-roads of ecosystems site in Central Africa for biodiversity conservation.
The Ivindo river flows among wide areas of primary rainforest, winding through a unique and spectacular succession of rapids and waterfalls (Kongou, Mingouli).
A variety of wildlife, such as forest elephants, primates (gorilla, chimpanzee, mangabey, colobus, mandrill....), birds and many others species (buffalo, sitatunga, duikers, bush pig, giant pangolin....) can be spotted.

The highest concentration of gorillas in Gabon has been found in the clearing of Langoue. The Ivindo national Park (3000 km2) was created in 2002 and includes the Ipassa Reserve, protected since 1971 where the Institut de Rechecrhe en Ecologie Tropicale (IRET) runs the Ipassa-Makokou Research Station.

In 2002 the President Omar Bongo Odimba decided to dedicate 10% of the territory to help protect the fantastic tropical forest which covert a huge part of the country and created 13 National Park, including the Ivindo Park, to be one of the few African leaders to be deeply concern about environment and pushing forward to a better preservation.

But today President Bongo launched several critical attacks on all NGOs involve in this matter by saying with authority :"Anyway, whatever happens, whatever people say or think, Bélinga Project will happen."
A fantastic u-turn for a man who pride himself to be a huge partisan of climate change.

But this is not about Omar Bongo Odimba or Leonard Moutsinga Kebila (governor of the Ogooue-Ivindo) who during his last visit to the site was really please to see that the road build through the Ivindo National Park was nearly finish and defended the Bélinga Project with a huge smile on his face, no this is about Gabon and the preservation of the rainforest and all rares species of animals who live there in peace, protected by a fantastic environment and the people who worked so hard since 2002 to help this place to be regarded as one of the most peacefully and natural environment sanctuary in the world, where men stopped to disturb or destroy and became spectator of an everyday show of gorillas and elephants living together along Kongou waterfall.



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