Friday, 19 October 2007

Fund illegal logging fight, govt told.

Fund illegal logging fight, govt told

Ridwan Max Sijabat, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta 19th October 2007

Instead of begging rich countries for forestry projects, the government should instead increase the Indonesian Military (TNI) and National Police budgets to stop rampant illegal logging.

Gandjar Pranowo, a member of the forestry and agriculture commission at the House of Representatives, and Elfian Effendi, executive director of Greenomics Indonesia, spoke to The Jakarta Post separately Thursday about illegal logging.

They said the government investigation into illegal logging in timber estates -- allegedly involving pulp and paper mills -- was carried out to cover up even worse illegal logging activities in conservation forests and national parks, particularly in Sumatra and Kalimantan.

"I agree with the idea of raising the TNI and police budgets to prevent any involvement in illegal logging practices in protected forests and national parks," Gandjar said.

He said the financial losses from illegal logging amounted to some US$400 billion annually; a figure ample enough to increase both the defense and security sector budgets.

The government has raised the 2008 defense budget to Rp 40 trillion from Rp 32 trillion this fiscal year, but the figure is still far below the minimum budget of Rp 100 trillion.

The budget deficit has been worsened by the government take-over of all military business to develop the TNI into a more professional force, as mandated by the Law on Military.

Gandjar slammed both the government and the House for the lack of political innovation and breakthroughs to provide sufficient funding for the military and police force.

Elfian said with its vast conservation forests, Indonesia had become an environmental donor in neutralizing the large amount of carbon dioxide produced by industrialized countries, particularly by the U.S. and China.

"Indonesia, with a total of some 110 million hectares of forest area, including 26.5 million hectares of protected forests and national parks, donates $530 billion annually to absorb carbon dioxide, which has been blamed for global warming and climate change," he said.

However, he said despite Indonesia's strong bargaining power, the government was in a difficult position since illegal logging had made areas of the country prone to ecological disasters such as landslides, floods and forest fires.

Meanwhile, Muhammad Chalid, executive director of the Indonesian Environmental Forum, said the government should introduce a regulation in lieu of a law to halt illegal logging and prove to the world Indonesia was serious about preventing global warming.

"This is more concrete and realistic for Indonesia than hosting the global environmental summit in Bali in December, which many doubt will be able to provide concrete solutions to the issue," he said.

Chalid said Indonesia's top priority should not be supporting the carbon trade or the reduced carbon from environmental deterioration and degradation (REDD) program at the Bali summit.
He said saving people by preventing ecological disasters and forest fires was far more important than carbon trading.