Conservation from Chaos?


This edition of NATURE INC. visits the Democratic Republic of Congo and finds its environment under threat from decades of conflict and lack of effective government. We look at the ways this country can rebuild its economy on a sustainable basis.

A country of vast resources, the Democratic Republic of Congo has an unfortunate history of being plundered with little or no benefit returning to its people. As a colonial possession, it had the beginnings of a modern infrastructure but decades of fighting have reduced this to ruins.

With a lack of effective governance, the people have now been left to fend for themselves. This means uncontrolled exploitation of its forests for charcoal and wildlife for food.

The industries that remain are often highly polluting, with no environmental controls. We see chemical industries using techniques half a century old, streaming waste effluent directly into rivers.

We see the once great state owned mining company relying on young people to extract copper and cobalt ores by hand under medieval conditions.

But there are also signs that the people of DRC are taking their own initiative to manage their resources in some areas; a community-managed drinking water scheme is so successful it now has $40,000 US dollars in the bank – enough to maintain the infrastructure and even entirely replace the pump machinery when it fails.

We meet the market gardeners who are pooling resources and scaling up their farming to meet the demand of the rapidly and chaotically expanding city of 10 million that is the capital, Kinshasa.

Finally, we hear from the Minster for the Environment about how a global scheme to pay forested countries NOT to cut down their trees, might just give DRC a brand new start.