Men carrying tree trunks in North Kivu, DRC
Matthieu Mokolo

LIPUA LIPUA â€" He'd been away for some time in Mbandaka, the capital of the northwestern Équateur province along the Congo River. But when Pierrot Mawambe returns to Lipua Lipua, a fisherman camp on an islet 80 kilometers downstream, he was stunned by the void where huge waka trees used to stand. "Timber harvesters cut them down," a local informs him.

In the past, waka trees (a variety of guibourtia) as well as others like the "monsenge" and the "mokese" (pycnanthus angolensis) hadn't been commercialized. But now, traditional harvesters, like Richard Mobembo, have seen a business opportunity, after this new sort of wood was circulating on the market in Kinshasa, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) capital. "When we see it in Kinshasa, we immediately look for it in the forest when we return to the Équateur region," Mobembo said. "We'll sometimes even cut down any tree that's more than 50 centimeters in diameter, even if we don't know their names or qualities. Only when we put it on the market do we realize what it is, and what it's actually worth."

Despite the restrictive legislation on forest exploitation in the DRC, an attempt to bring down deforestation and to fight against global warming, the wood market is still going strong in the region. Every day, boats belonging to big companies and rafts of small, traditional harvesters travel downstream to Kinshasa.

Rising demand

Waka wood can fetch between $350 and $500 per cubicle meter, mokese up to $140. Others, of lesser quality, like moluku (which sells for just $70 per cubicle meter) still find buyers in construction, packaging and other industrial sectors. Patrick Mowei, a local builder, says the real estate boom and modern architecture with multiple roof lines, which currently are very popular in DRC, are driving up wood demand.

Aerial view on a forest in North Kivu, DRC â€" Photo: MONUSCO/Myriam Asmani

Environmental activists are worried, warning that the razing of new tree varieties represents a real danger for the ecosystems of areas which, until then, had been spared the worst of deforestation. This is compounded by the fact that traditional timber harvesters limit their activity to areas near the rivers, so they can transport the wood more easily on their rafts, even though the legislation bans all timber exploitation less than two kilometers from running water.

"Large parts of the region's forests are disappearing every day," says Bonkanya Mangwele, an environment researcher at the region's University of Mbandaka. "The fact that trees near the streams are being cut down leads to erosions and damages the soil." He warns that entire islets could disappear, causing large quantities of sand to end up in some rivers, which isn't good news for the fight against global warming.

Traditional timber harvesters, eager to play down the impact of their own activity, are instead pointing the finger at industrial exploiters. "Compared to them, we amount to almost nothing," says Richard Mobembo. "It's the big companies that are destroying the environment because they exploit vast surfaces and cut down large quantities of trees. We're happy with the crumbs."

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La Sagrada Familia Delayed Again — Blame COVID-19 This Time

Hopes were dashed by local officials to see the completion of the iconic Barcelona church in 2026, in time for the 100th anniversary of the death of its renowned architect Antoni Guadí.

Work on La Sagrada Familia has been delayed because of the pandemic

By most accounts, it's currently the longest-running construction project in the world. And now, the completion of work on the iconic Barcelona church La Sagrada Familia, which began all the way back in 1882, is going to take even longer.

Barcelona-based daily El Periodico daily reports that work on the church, which began as the vision of master architect Antoni Gaudí, was slated to be completed in 2026. But a press conference Tuesday, Sep. 21 confirmed that the deadline won't be met, in part because of delays related to COVID-19. Officials also provided new details about the impending completion of the Mare de Déu tower (tower of the Virgin).

El Periódico - 09/22/2021

El Periodico daily reports on the latest delay from what may be the longest-running construction project in the world.

One tower after the other… Slowly but surely, La Sagrada Familia has been growing bigger and higher before Barcelonians and visitors' eager eyes for nearly 140 years. However, all will have to be a bit more patient before they see the famous architectural project finally completed. During Tuesday's press conference, general director of the Construction Board of the Sagrada Familia, Xavier Martínez, and the architect director, Jordi Faulí, had some good and bad news to share.

As feared, La Sagrada Familia's completion date has been delayed. Because of the pandemic, the halt put on the works in early March when Spain went into a national lockdown. So the hopes are dashed of the 2026 inauguration in what would have been the 100th anniversary of Gaudi's death.

Although he excluded new predictions of completion until post-COVID normalcy is restored - no earlier than 2024 -, Martínez says: "Finishing in 2030, rather than being a realistic forecast, would be an illusion, starting the construction process will not be easy," reports La Vanguardia.

But what's a few more years when you already have waited 139, after all? However delayed, the construction will reach another milestone very soon with the completion of the Mare de Déu tower (tower of the Virgin), the first tower of the temple to be completed in 44 years and the second tallest spire of the complex. It will be crowned by a 12-pointed star which will be illuminated on December 8, Immaculate Conception Day.

Next would be the completion of the Evangelist Lucas tower and eventually, the tower of Jesus Christ, the most prominent of the Sagrada Familia, reaching 172.5 meters thanks to an illuminated 13.5 meters wide "great cross." It will be made of glass and porcelain stoneware to reflect daylight and will be illuminated at night and project rays of light.

La Sagrada Familia through the years

La Sagrada Familia, 1889 - wikipedia

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