Tue, 06 Aug 2002

Illegal logging rampant in Kerinci Seblat protected forest

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The illegal logging that has swept through most of the Kerinci Seblat National Park (TNKS) in Lubuk Linggau, South Sumatra, is spreading throughout the park.

Around 800 hectares of the national park's 340,750 hectares in Rejang Lebong had been left barren due to intensive illegal logging in the last few months, the Antara news agency reported on Monday.

Rejang Lebong forestry office chief Edi Kasik confirmed on Monday that the illegal logging had spread from the Musi Rawas regency in South Sumatra to the Padang Ulak Tanding subdistrict under the noses of local authorities.

He said his office had no authority to arrest those looting the forest while police charged with supervising the park in Kerinci, Jambi, had done nothing despite information being passed to them.

"The illegal logging has a lot to do with the lack of coordination between the local administration and the security authorities," he said.

The Bengkulu provincial administration has threatened to take action against anyone implicated in illegal logging.

The law provides for a maximum fine of Rp 100 million and ten- years jail for individuals or companies found guilty of logging in national parks or protected forests. The local government is also launching an operation to drive forest squatters out of the national park.

Logs stolen from the national park are supplied to sawmills who process them for export.

Local people say local officials know about the illegal logging and the existance of PT AMK which sawmills illegal logs. However, the officals do nothing.

They said the company owner was arrested for supplying illegal logs but he returned to the timber business after serving his jail sentence.

Illegal logging is also rampant throughout other parts of the park, including in Jambi and Riau.

The Jambi Provincial Police have even hired two security companies to crack down on illegal loggers and sawmills operating near the protected forests.

Conserving the national park, a home for millions of rare species, including elephants, tigers, rhinos and the rafflesia flower, has been handled by authorities in the four provinces with financial assistance from the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and the World Bank.

Rejang Lebong administration spokesman Rudi Pancawarman said authorities were launching an operation to clear the forest of squatters.

"The environment in the national park is badly deteriorated and the deforestation will continue unless strict action is taken."