World Bank Supports Forests Protection and Development in Belarus

March 27, 2015

WASHINGTON, March 27, 2015 - The Board of Executive Directors of the World Bank today approved a US$40.71 million loan to the Republic of Belarus for a new Forestry Development Project designed to enhance silvicultural management, reforestation and afforestation, increase the use of felling residues, and increase the overall contribution of forests to sustainable development. The project is also financed by a grant from the Global Environment Facility in the amount of US$2.74 million.

We are building on our prior engagement which helped to outline a long-term strategic vision for forestry sector development in Belarus and has brought tangible results through institutional and policy development,” said Mr. Young Chul Kim, World Bank Country Manager for Belarus. “The new forestry development project will help to modernize several aspects of forestry sector operations, and protect and enhance the quality of the forest resources. For instance, it will provide direct support to 25,000 employees of 88 forest enterprises by generating better jobs in the rural forested areas that require skilled and semi-skilled workers. The enhanced efficiency in forest enterprises is expected to bring benefits to the wood processing and wood energy sectors further downstream.

Belarus is one of the most forested countries in Europe and Central Asia with forest area accounting for nearly 40 percent of the territory and contributes about 2 percent of the GDP. The Government recognizes the importance of institutional change, investment, new technologies and capacity building in the forestry sector, as well as the need to respond in a sustainable manner to a growing demand for wood products from both the wood processing and wood energy enterprises.

“By 2020, four million hectares of forests outside the protected areas will be managed in a manner friendlier to biodiversity,” noted Mr. Andrew Mitchell, World Bank Project Team Leader. “Investments in goods and machinery will support further development and intensification of silviculture, including the purchase of 74 modern forest harvesters, needed for younger-aged thinning operations, and 52 forwarders. Six new heavy-duty chippers will help to utilize wood waste and woody biomass from felling and logging operations, which currently are simply left in the forest to rot, wasting the calorific value therein and creating a fire hazard.”

The project will also facilitate modernization of forest nurseries to produce container-grown seedlings of improved quality, installation of video and communications equipment for monitoring, surveillance and detection of fires, introduction of fire-fighting equipment to help extinguish the fires once started, as well as the development of a web-based interface to allow sharing of information, including geo-information.  It is estimated that the measures on prevention, improved detection and more timely and effective response to forest fires is expected to reduce future losses by 30 percent.

This is the second World Bank supported forestry sector project in Belarus. The earlier Forestry Development Project implemented from 1994 to 2002 was actually the first World Bank investment operation in Belarus. It helped to promote economically and environmentally sound practices in the forestry sector, and to move to an open market pricing for wood and liberalization of trade in wood and wood products. New concepts and approaches to forest resource management and technology, such as forest certification and improved forest fire management, were introduced.

The new project also builds on the World Bank Forest Sector Policy Note which provided strategic advice on defining sector goals and opportunities in conjunction with the development of the National Forest Strategic Plan for 2015–2030 and the experience and knowledge gained from the European Neighborhood and Partnership Instrument East Countries Forest Law Enforcement and Governance (FLEG) Program (2008 – 2012, 2012-2017) which is being implemented by the World Bank.

Since the Republic of Belarus joined the World Bank in 1992, lending commitments to the country have totaled US$1.43 billion. In addition, grant financing totaling US$28 million has been provided to various programs, including those with civil society organizations. With the approval of this project, the current investment lending portfolio includes seven operations totaling US$938 million.

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