Wed, 16 Apr 2003

Environmentalists call for an end to deforestation

Kurniawan Hari, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Environmentalists met with People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) chairman Amien Rais and his deputy, Kholil Bisri, on Tuesday to demand that political pressure be put on military and police personnel to stop illegal logging throughout the country.

The activists said military and police personnel were backing illegal logging across the country, making it difficult to end the criminal practice without the aid of political pressure.

"Illegal logging causes economic and ecological losses to the state. We need a strong commitment from lawmakers (to stop this practice)," said Henny Buftheim of the Greencom environmental group on Tuesday.

Fellow activist Jatna Suprijatna warned that the forest's destruction would have a snowball effect, namely the deterioration of the nation's biodiversity.

He added that uncontrolled deforestation had contributed to US$4 billion in state losses per year.

Jatna said that there was about Rp 2 million to Rp 3 million in state losses for each cubic meter of trees felled due to illegal logging.

Illegal logging also has a devastating impact on sustaining biodiversity. Every cubic meter of trees felled means Rp 10 million in state losses, he said.

He noted that the rate of deforestation had reached more than two million hectares per year.

Meantime, Agus Setiyarso from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) said that his office had been monitoring illegal logging in some regencies in West Kalimantan and Riau for the past four years and had learned that illegal logging was sponsored by businessmen from Malaysia.

Citing data from the Ministry of Forestry, the forest in West Kalimantan can tolerate logging of no more than 400,000 cubic meters per year.

But Agus disclosed that logging activities reached 4 million cubic meters per year in the province.

"This means the amount of logging that has been done is ten times more than the tolerable proportions. The supply for the next generation has already been chopped down," Agus said.

Henny, Jatna, and Agus called for an evaluation of the work of local administrations to avoid further deforestation. "I think several regents deserve a jail sentence (for helping illegal loggers)," Agus said.

Responding to the activists, Amien said Assembly leaders shared the same opinion as environmental activists but could offer no solution.

"We are in the same boat and we are very much concerned about the diminishing forests," Amien said.

Deforestation in the period of 1985 - 1997 --------------------------------------------------------------- Areas size of forest size of forest percent

1985 1997 --------------------------------------------------------------- Sumatra 22,938,825 16,430,300 - 28 Java 1,274,600 1,869,675 47 Bali 96,450 76,700 - 20 Nusa Tenggara 686,775 450,450 - 34 Kalimantan 39,644,025 29,637,475 - 25 Sulawesi 11,192,950 7,950,900 - 29 Maluku 5,790,800 5,820,975 - 1 Irian Jaya 35,192,725 33,382,475 - 5 --------------------------------------------------------------- Source: Madani Journal, February-April 2003