Wed, 09 Jul 2003

RI's degraded forest area doubles in one year

Moch. N. Kurniawan, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Illegal logging and forest fires have exacerbated the environmental destruction in the country, with degraded forest areas increasing at an alarming level, a government official says.

Head of Research and Development at the Ministry of Forestry Agus Sarsito said on Tuesday that degraded forest areas had reached at total of 54.6 million hectares in 2002, up from 23.9 million hectares in 2001.

Agus said the government would only be able to recover 1.4 million hectares of the degraded forest over the next five years through its reforestation program.

"Besides those degraded forests, there was also 41.7 million hectares of degraded non-forest land in 2002," he said in a paper presented at a seminar on Clean Development Mechanism (CDM).

He also said that Indonesia had a total 120.3 million hectares of forest, or about 60 percent of its total land area.

As part of its efforts to reduce forest degradation, Agus said the government had continuously reduced the annual cut of forest concessionaires.

However, environmental activists said the move would not be effective, as it did not resolve the illegal logging that has worsened the country's already degraded forests.

The government has also launched a reforestation program covering three million hectares of degraded areas -- 1.4 million hectares of degraded forest and 1.6 million hectares of degraded non-forest land -- over the next five years with a fund of Rp 15 trillion.

The rehabilitation program is being financed by the reforestation fund.

The government initially targeted for rehabilitation nine million hectares of degraded land, but this would have required a fund of Rp 45 trillion.

Agus said that the ministry had also identified possible locations of rehabilitation program that may be eligible for CDM projects with assistance from the Australian government and the World Bank.

Under CDM, an developed country can compensate its high greenhouse gas (GHG) or carbon dioxide (CO2) emission by providing incentives to developing countries to use environmentally friendly technology to limit their GHG emission.

Besides incentives, the developed country must also reduce its GHG emission within its own territory, as required by the Kyoto Protocol.

Despite their rehabilitation program, the government has made a counterproductive move by planning to allow 22 mining firms to resume operating in protected forests.

Gunardi, deputy assistant of climate change and atmosphere affairs at the Office of the State Minister for the Environment, said that such information from the ministry should be transparent and accurate.

"Sometimes we are confused about the ministry's information, which always changes and is different from information at other ministries. I hope we can start issuing a single set of information," he said.

Meanwhile, Liana Bratasida, Deputy of Environmental Conservation at the state minister's office, said the ministry would offer 30 projects in exchange for incentives from the CDM program of developed countries.

Gunardi said Indonesia had secured only one CDM project from the Dutch government, which has pledged ti give US$26 million to the Wayang Windu geothermal power plant from 2008 to 2012 for its ability to reduce certain amount of CO2 emission.