SARAJEVO - Around half of Bosnia-Herzegovina is covered by forests and wood is one of the Balkan country’s most valuable natural resources. But instead of developing the nation, some politicians and private companies enrich themselves with the profits of the ‘green gold’. Forests are cut down for private interests and governments and companies in Western-Europe close their eyes to gain cheap wood. 

Mapping illegal deforestation and who profits from it

Money and politics are strongly intertwined in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and the greed of those in power destroys important nature, environmentalists say. The destruction of forests has had devastating effects on the environment in the Balkan country: it has caused significant erosion, habitat, and biodiversity loss, and has increased flooding risks, research shows.

This investigation into the forestry sector in Bosnia documents several instances of illegal deforestation involving both public forestry companies and private companies, which are frequently associated with the ruling elite. This environmental crime is enriching a small group of people, whilst citizens are losing critical resources that could benefit everyone. 

Implicated, and deeply divided along political and administrative lines, the central government in the capital city of Sarajevo neither has the strength nor the will to deal with the destruction caused by illegal logging, insiders say. In addition, the fact that some regions have not developed clear laws on forestry management enables endemic corruption in the sector, with those responsible going unpunished, say researchers and environmentalists. 

Some of the illegally cut wood ends up in the local market, where it is used as firewood or pallets. Other wood ends up being exported as furniture, planks or other material for the building sector. The Netherlands and France are amongst the main importers of wood from Bosnia-Herzegovina, which is being sold as sustainability (FSC) sourced in our furniture and hardware stores. We trace the wood from Bosnia to the European Union. 

Team members

Ingrid Gercama

Ingrid Gercama is a freelance journalist, based in the Netherlands.

Ingrid Gercama

Jeanne Frank

Jeanne Frank is a freelance photojournalist based in Paris who publishes internationally.

Harun Dinarević

Harun Dinarević is a freelance journalist living in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Harun Dinarević

Alena Beširević

Alena Beširević is a freelance investigative journalist in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Alena Beširević

Marjolein Koster

Marjolein Koster is a multimedia journalist travelling between the Netherlands and the Balkans.

Marjolein Koster

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