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Algerian Nuthatch habitat threatened by a controversial project

A project to create a “recreational forest” in the Bouafroun Forest in Djimla could jeopardise the habitat of the Algerian Nuthatch and other wildlife according to Algerian environmental activists.

The project named “Bouafoune Forest for Entertainment and Recreation, Jijel” is developed by a private investor under the name “Bouafroune Services & Commerce Ltd”.  It was authorized by the concerned government agency two years ago, but for a reason or another it didn’t start until recently.

For the context, this project is part of a large national plan launched by the Algerian government to develop the forestry sector. Specifically, the national project aims “to create, by 2035, 247 recreational forests across 39 wilayas [= provinces] of the country, as part of a strategy of valorization and protection of plant cover and forests” according to a Government official quoted by the official news agency APS in March 2019.

The Bouafroun Forest in Djimla is one of the six forests that host the only endemic bird species to Algeria: the Algerian Nuthatch (Sitta ledanti). It also hosts a number of plant species that are nationally protected. The site is also known to foreign birders simply as ‘Djimla Forest’.

The forests are already threatened by some local human activities here and there, but these threats remain localized and don’t outright destroy a big part of a forest. Add the wildfires to the mix, which become more and more frequent across the country (The last year’s wildfires didn’t affect the Algerian Nuthatch habitat, although it destroyed a large area of natural forests as well as human plantations). All these threats are already taking its toll on forests and other natural habitats, and there is no need for more direct threats which this ‘recreational forest’ represents.

The “Bouafoune Forest for Entertainment and Recreation” project as advertised by its private developer “Bouafroune Services & Commerce Ltd”.

Right of the population to development

The central and local authorities have all the reasons and to encourage and develop green projects which, if done right, are good for the local economic and social development. However, the key term here is “if done right” according to people who followed the controversial project since the beginning.

According to these sources, the protestations organized by Algerian citizens and activists against this project since 2018 is not against the project per se, but against its location. The project opponents have proposed changing the project site to another location inside the municipality, in this way the opportunity of the local population to achieve development is not compromised.

But apparently, these alternative proposals have fallen on deaf ears. Bulldozers are already at work (photos seen but not published here).

More about the Algerian Nuthatch:

Algerian Nuthatch (Sitta ledanti), Bouafroun Forest, Djimla, Algeria, July 2019 (Walid Soukkou).

Thanks to our Algerian colleague Walid Soukkou for his contribution to this report.

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