Friday, 28 March 2008

Greenpeace hails Papua log export ban

Friday, March 28, 2008 12:34 PM

Greenpeace hails Papua log export ban

The Jakarta Post , Jakarta Fri, 03/28/2008 11:27 AM The Archipelago

The international environmental activist group Greenpeace called for Jakarta to strongly support the maintenance of Papua's log export ban despite recent logging industry pressure to loosen the regulation.

The log export ban, a joint initiative of the governors of Papua and West Papua, has been in place since Dec. 19, 2007. Under the ban, which has received strong support from Papuan people concerned about losing their forests, logs from Papua can only be used inside Papua.

However, at a March 17 meeting between governor Barnabas Suebu and 40 forestry investor representatives in Jayapura, the investors asked the governor to loosen the regulation, a call backed by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Vice President Jusuf Kalla.

The central government should uphold the commitment it showed at the Bali Climate Talks to protect Indonesian forests, Greenpeace said in a press release issued Thursday.

Globally, tropical deforestation accounts for approximately 20 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. Indonesia is the world's third largest emitter largely due to deforestation. If Indonesia's government is serious about saving its forests and tackling climate change, it should fully support the Papua log export ban.

"The Papuan government is one of the few local governments to have taken a strong stand to save its forests and to increase the welfare of the people who depend on them," said Bustar Maitar, Greenpeace Southeast Asia Forest campaigner.

"The central government should support the regulation to keep Papua's forests breathing as one of the world's lungs. The deforestation rate in Papua should be decreased gradually down to zero in a well-planned program with consideration for Papuan people's welfare," he said.

According to Bustar, Papua, forming the western half of New Guinea Island and comprising the Indonesian provinces of Papua and West Papua, is one of the world's last remaining treasure troves of biodiversity.

New Guinea itself has been described as the last remaining intact forest tract left in the Asia-Pacific region. Papua's forests are Indonesia's last jewel, since other forests in Sumatra and Kalimantan have largely been destroyed by logging and large-scale forest conversion for palm oil plantation.

Allowing deforestation to escalate in Papua to the same level would not only be an environmental crime but also a crime against the people of Papua whose lives depend on keeping the forests intact, said Bustar.

Before the log export ban, logs from Papua's forests were shipped off the island in recent years with no benefit to local government and the community.

In April 2007, the governors of Papua, West Papua and Aceh in Sumatra, declared their joint commitment to save the forests, giving cause for optimism that Papua would not repeat the failed forest management of Sumatra and Kalimantan. The declaration was positively received at both national and international levels.

"The time for action is now, the expansion of clearing in the remaining intact forests must be stopped. Papua's forests must be protected and community-based sustainable forest use encouraged," Bustar said.