Deforestation: Stats, costs and attempted remedies

First the bad news. According to Yonhap:

North Korea has destroyed forests about 18 times the size of Manhattan for more than 10 years, data showed Tuesday, in the latest sign of deforestation in the communist country.

Global Forest Watch, which is run by the Washington-based World Resources Institute, said on its website that a total of 160,515 hectares of forest were destroyed between 2000 and 2013.

It also said North Korea created 13,680 hectares of forest between 2000 and 2012.

The development illustrates the rapid deforestation in North Korea as people cut down trees for fuel and turn forests into farmland to grow more food.

Experts have said severe deforestation is one of the reasons behind devastating floods that hit North Korea in recent years.

North Korea’s total forest area stood at 5.2 million hectares, with its output estimated at US$300 million as of 2006, or 2.5 percent of the country’s gross domestic product.

You can see a visualization of the DPRK’s deforestation with Global forest Watch here.

Of course the problem is the a classic “tragedy of the commons“.

And according to the Donga Ilbo:

According to the Korea Forest Service’s report on the “cost for reforestation in North Korea” that the Dong-A Ilbo obtained on Tuesday, as of 2008 deforested mountains accounted for 32 percent of the total land of North Korea, about 2.84 million hectares. To restore the area, about 32 trillion won (about 30 billion dollars) is estimated to be required.

Deforestation is proceeding at a rapid pace in North Korea. It appears even faster in areas with high population density. The Korea Forest Research Institute has recently analyzed photos taken by a German commercial satellite and found deforestation progressed in North Korean cities of Pyongyang and Gaesong more rapidly than rural areas of Hyesan and Bongsan over the same period of time. The institute concluded that such discrepancy is cause by reckless lumbering and reclamation in urban areas. Besides, some reclaimed lands are not used for cultivation and just wasted because of the spread of crop theft, further exacerbating deforestation. In this regard, many argue that reforestation in North Korea should be beyond planting trees and in line with measures for food, fuels and income.

The Donga Ilbo also reports that an organization called the Green Asia Organization has been created to try and help resolve the problem:

Private organizations of South Korea, North Korea and China have started to make systematic efforts to reforest bare mountains in North Korea. The Green Asia Organization, which seeks to grow trees in mountains and nurture forest farmers at the same time, is to be launched and hold an international symposium on “international cooperation measures for reforestation on the Korean Peninsula” on Wednesday.

The organization is established based on the understanding that reforestation of North Korea costs trillions of won (billions of U.S. dollars) now and the cost will increase even further as time goes. Deforestation in North Korea not only directly affects the ecosystem of South Korea but also increases the cost for reunification. Besides, it can evolve into a more serious environmental issue in East Asia.

This organization does not have an English-language web page (or any at all as far as I can tell). If you are able to find out more about this group, please let me know.

Read the full stories here:
N. Korea destroyed forests about 18 times the size of Manhattan
Yonhap
2014-3-18

Reforestation of N. Korea is precedent for ‘Green Reunification’
Donga Ilbo
2014-3-19

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