Thu, 20 Mar 2003

NGOs fight against illegal logging

Moch. N. Kurniawan, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

A number of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) launched on Wednesday a campaign to increase public support for the fight against illegal logging.

"We are hopeful that every party concerned with the country's forests will join in this campaign against illegal logging," Forest Watch Indonesia director Togu Manurung said after the launch of the campaign, which was attended by hundreds of participants.

Among those in attendance were People's Consultative Assembly Speaker Amien Rais, State Minister for the Environment Nabiel Makarim and NGO executives.

The NGOs involved in the campaign are the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi), Forest Watch Indonesia, The Indonesian Indigenous Group Alliance (AMAN), the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Indonesia, GreenCom, INFORM, Kemala Foundation and Telapak Indonesia.

Togu said the campaign would reach local NGOs, tribal communities, mass organizations like Nahdlatul Ulama and political parties.

"The campaign must emerge as a social movement because we cannot rely on the government to take legal action against illegal loggers," he said.

He also pointed out the importance of political parties taking an unambiguous stance against illegal logging and including environmental protection in their platforms in the campaign to stop environmental degradation.

It was initially proposed to Minister of Forestry M. Prakosa that the campaign be launched by President Megawati Soekarnoputri at the state palace, Togu said.

"But Prakosa refused for fear that if Megawati launched the campaign but then it failed, the President would be embarrassed," Togu said.

Prakosa could not be reached for confirmation, nor did he attend the ceremony on Wednesday.

However, Nabiel said that although Megawati and Prakosa did not attend the ceremony, the government and the NGOs were on the same side in the fight against illegal logging.

Walhi executive director Longgena Ginting called on the people of Indonesia to write government officials and urge them to step up the fight illegal loggers.

"If people write letters, we hope the government will take legal action against illegal loggers," he said.

Illegal logging is a major problem in the country, with a total loss of over 51 million cubic meters of wood a year. The demand for plywood reaches 63 million cubic meters a year, but legal logging can only provide 12 million cubic meters.

This year, illegal logging looks set to become even more widespread, with the government limiting legal log production to 6.4 million cubic meters, with plywood demand still standing at 63 million cubic meters.

Economic losses from illegal logging reach Rp 30 trillion (US$3.4 billion) annually, in addition to the loss of human life and property from the floods and landslides that follow illegal logging and deforestation.

The government has also launched an operation to fight illegal logging with the Indonesian Military and the National Police, but there still have been no major breakthroughs from that campaign.

Meanwhile, Amien came out in support of efforts to stop illegal logging, saying forestry companies must make forest conservation their top priority.

"When we speak about forests, we are speaking about tree stumps. All (forests) have been nearly denuded. I believe that within 10 years, Indonesia's forests will have become deserts," he said.