Sunday, 27 April 2008

Changes in forest management policies urgent

Changes in forest management policies urgent

Adianto P. Simamora, The Jakarta Post, Hanoi, 24th April

Forestry nations must change their forest management policies to help counter the effects of climate change and skyrocketing prices of food and fuel, leading forestry experts have said.

The experts, speaking at the Asia-Pacific Forestry Week conference here Tuesday, said climate change, soaring fuel prices and poverty, combined with increasing demand for forest products, would pose unprecedented challenges to the forestry sector in the Asia-Pacific region.

"Meeting the challenges requires enormous growth in skills and knowledge and reinvention of many existing forestry institutions," head of forestry for the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Jan Heino, said.

"We must change. Forestry can't continue on the same path as in past decades."
More than 600 forestry experts and government officials from across the region are attending the conference, which will run until Saturday.

The conference, organized by the FAO, aims to identify ways to resolve forestry-related problems, such as enforcing laws against illegal logging and reducing poverty among communities living in forest regions.

According to renowned ecologist and author Norman Myers, the world has not made protecting forests a priority, with only US$20 billion per year allocated to conservation.
"Globally, countries are spending at least $200 billion each year on perverse subsidies that destroy biodiversity habitats, while the entire expenditure on conservation is less than a tenth of that amount," the author of The Sinking Ark told the conference.

Indonesia, which has the world's largest amount of rainforest with 120 million hectares, has come under pressure to improve the management of its forestry sector, especially given claims illegal logging is benefiting the rich.

Norman Jiwan, a researcher at Sawit Watch and a representative of an indigenous community of Kerambai people in Sanggau district, West Kalimantan, said government policies had destroyed local communities.

"The forest and natural resources helped Kerambai people survive before Indonesia's independence but their lives have changed since the government awarded concession permits to open the forest for palm oil plantations," Norman said.

Frances Seymour of the Center for International Forestry Research said Indonesia was a globally significant source of greenhouse gas emissions because of peat fires.

"New interest in forests because of climate change provides an opportunity to shift the political economy of forests," she said.

Seymour said climate change was likely to increase the probability of high-intensity rainfall events, which would in turn increase the risk of landslides.

"Maintenance of forest vegetation can help stabilize the slope for some types of land movement," she said.

Decision makers do not care much about forest, as evident in the continuing tolerance for destructive logging practices, overinvestment in wood-processing capacity and illegal logging and trade, she said.