As the World’s Environment Day beckons us in 2016, the eco-crime is hitting record high at up to $258 billion, outstripping the illegal trade in small arms, as international criminal gangs and militant groups profit from the plunder of Earth’s resources, said a global report.
Today, 5th June, 2016 is being celebrated as the World Environment Day with the theme, ‘Go Wild for Life’ focusing on inspiring people to turn their attention on those species under threat and safeguard them for future generations.
While Indian scientists aptly cite the first ever photographic evidence of Eurasian Otter, a rare Indian mammal from the Satpura Tiger Reserve of Madhya Pradesh, which is on the verge of extinction according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) that has listed it under ‘near threatened’ category.
The discovery of the otter in the Satpura Hill Range and the Kanha-Pench Corridor in Madhya Pradesh by NGO Wildlife Conservation Trust (WCT) gives such rare hope to conserve the animal but a report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and INTERPOL on the occasion of World Environment Day has sent the warning signals that the world crime against such rare species is rising dagerously surpassing known crime routes.
The report finds that weak laws and poorly funded security forces are enabling international criminal networks and armed rebels to profit from a trade that fuels conflicts, devastates ecosystems and is threatening species with extinction.
UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said, "The vast sums of money generated from these crimes keep sophisticated international criminal gangs in business, and fuel insecurity around the world… The world needs to come together now to take strong national and international action to bring environmental crime to an end."
Environmental crime is so huge that it dwarfs the illegal trade in small arms, which is valued at about $3 billion. It is the world’s fourth-largest criminal enterprise after drug smuggling, counterfeiting and human trafficking.
The amount of money lost due to environmental crime is 10,000 times greater than the amount of money spent by international agencies on combatting it – just $20-30 million, said the report putting the rise in environmental crime in the last decade at 5 to 7 percent per year.
The environmental crime includes the illegal trade in wildlife, corporate crime in the forestry sector, the illegal exploitation and sale of gold and other minerals, illegal fisheries, the trafficking of hazardous waste and carbon credit fraud and it is growing two to three times faster than global GDP, it said.
To combat the crime, the United Nations has roped in celebrities such as Gisele Bündchen, Yaya Touré and Neymar Jr. to mobilize action against poaching and the trafficking of illegal wildlife products. In addition, thousands of people and more than 25 ministers have chosen a species to show their commitment to protecting wildlife.
The money generated from the illegal exploitation of natural resources funds rebel groups, terrorist networks and international criminal cartels and in the last decade, for example, poachers have killed an average of 3,000 elephants per year in Tanzania. That’s an annual street market value for ivory traffickers of $10.5 million, an amount that is five times greater than the entire national budget of the country’s wildlife division, according to the report.
From illegal gold mining in Colombia to the trafficking of hazardous waste and chemicals, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reported in 2013 that the illegal trade in e-waste to Southeast Asia and the Pacific was estimated at $3.75 billion annually.
Criminal networks linked to the conflict in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have spent about 2 per cent of their proceeds to fund up to 49 different rebel groups. According to some estimates by the UN, the illegal exploitation of natural resources in eastern DRC is valued at $722-862 million annually.
The value of forestry crimes, including corporate crimes and illegal logging, is estimated at $50-152 billion per year.
WHITE COLLAR CRIME
The report looks at the rise of white collar environmental crime, from the use of shell companies in tax havens to launder money generated from illegal logging to transfer mispricing, hacking and identity theft.
Carbon trading is the world’s fastest growing commodities market. Carbon credit fraud cases have involved sums of transfers and profits that stretch into the hundreds of millions of dollars.