Honduras: priest leads protest against logging

 Logging of the dense forests of central Honduras is causing serious environmental damage, writes Matthew Heard. Water supplies are drying up and the livelihoods of small farmers are being destroyed. The response of the Honduran government has been, at best, ambiguous. Last month Fr Andres Tamayo - the parish priest of Salama, a city in Olancho - led a 250-km march of hundreds of peasant farmers, environmentalists and students from central Honduras's remote Olancho province to the presidential palace in Tegucigalpa, the capital city. The protesters called for president Ricardo Maduro to halt the environmental destruction by declaring a logging ban in Central Honduras until plans for the sustainable use of forest resources can be drawn up. The protesters accused sawmill owners of exploiting political contacts to log in the region. They said that unregulated logging was causing water supplies to dry up, exacerbating poverty. Maduro, who did not meet the protesters when they arrived at the presidential palace, insisted that the fight against illegal logging was going according to plan. Fr Tamayo, who has defended the forests of Olancho for over 20 years from loggers and miners, estimated that at least 70 truckloads of wood are being removed every day during daylight hours and even more at night. An estimated 80,000 hectares of Honduran forest disappear each year. Fr Tamayo, originally from neighbouring El Salvador, has received many death threats. Recently, he was told to leave the country to save his life. According to the Committee of Disappeared Detained Persons (COFADEH), Salama's mayor has stated on at least four occasions that the environmental problem in Olancho will only be solved with Tamayo's death. Citizens of the region continue to call for the judicial system to take action against powerful groups that use force and intimidation to destroy the forests and threaten the life of people such as Fr Tamayo. Source: CIIR

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