Sat, 05 Mar 2005

Govt urged to revoke logging permit

The Jakarta Post Jakarta

The government should review a forestry concession the Riau Governor gave to a wood pulp company to log up to 215,000 hectares of Riau rain forest, environmentalists say.

Riau Environmental Forum (Walhi) director Rully Sumanda said the group was deeply concerned about Governor Rusli Zainal's recent decision to give a new concession to PT Riau Andalan Pulp and Paper (RAPP). The giant pulp mill belonging to Radja Garuda Mas (RGM) Holding Group, would be allowed to log up to 215,000 hectares of forests in the Pelalawan, Siak and the Bengkalis areas.

Rully said the region was home to many protected rare species and known for its rich biodiversity.

"Walhi appeals to the government to review the governor's decision that would intensify environment destruction in the province, which has been hit badly by floods during the past 10 years due to rapid conversion of its rain forests into plantations," he told The Jakarta Post here on Friday.

He feared that with the new forestry concession, the province's mangrove areas and their ecosystems would be destroyed.

The mangrove forests had been buffer-zones for dozens of fishing communities in the three regencies, he said.

"The existence of the mangrove forests has ensured the supply of fish to the fishermen is maintained and they have simultaneously protected locals from large tidal waves."

Elephants and Sumatran tigers also lived in the forests, which was also an important water catchment area.

"It would be a good idea if the government reviewed the governor's decision, otherwise the decision will cause many environmental problems in the future," he said. Recent flooding that killed dozens of people in the province was a good reason to replant areas prone to inundation.

Rully said the governor's decision contravened Law No. 41/1999, which stipulates that only barren areas are allowed to be replanted as industrial forests (HTI).

"Riau still has 1.6 million ha of cleared but empty land that could be given to the pulp mill to be grown into industrial forests."

Meanwhile, the House of Representatives's Commission IV on forestry and plantation said it would convey the groups concerns to forestry minister Malam Sambat Kaban in their next meeting with him.

Commission members Imam Syuja and Nurhadi Musawir said other groups had complained about the decision and they planned to visit the area themselves.





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