Greenpeace urges more action on central African forest fires

Active fires in sub-Saharan Africa over the last 24 hours. (AFP Photo/Sabrina BLANCHARD)

Kinshasa (AFP) - Greenpeace on Tuesday called on governments to take more action to combat central African forest fires that have come into the spotlight since the global outcry over blazes burning in Brazil's Amazon rainforest.

The Congo Basin forests - covering parts of DR Congo, Gabon, Congo-Brazzaville and Cameroon - are often referred to as the "second green lung" of the planet after the Amazon.

"Greenpeace Africa calls on the Congo Basin governments to take immediate measures to prevent fires from hitting the rainforest," the environmental group said in a statement.

"For the long-term, governments must end all industrial activity within the world’s second largest rainforest."

Since August 21, more than 6,902 fires in Angola and 3,395 fires in neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo have been documented, predominantly in the savanna area, the group said without giving any comparisons from past years.

Like the Amazon, Greenpeace said, the Congo Basin rainforest still faces a risk of being hit again by uncontrolled fires.

Experts say fires in the Amazon are mainly because of climate change and drought whereas in central Africa fires are often seasonal and triggered by traditional slash-and-burn farming methods.

Just like the Amazon, the forests of the Congo Basin absorb tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) in trees and marshes -- seen by experts as a key way to combat climate change.

Most of the fires shown on NASA satellite maps of central Africa are outside sensitive rainforest areas, analysts say, making drawing comparisons to the current Amazon blazes more complicated.