Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Illegally harvested logs discovered in Riau

Illegally harvested logs discovered in Riau

Rizal Harahap, The Jakarta Post, Pekanbaru Tue, 04/22/2008 1:08 AM

Riau Police have discovered nearly 200,000 cubic meters of logs believed to have been illegally harvested in Pelalawan regency, Riau, the largest such finding in two months.

Pelalawan Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. I Gusti Gunawa said Monday the logs were found in at least 3,872 stashes next to five canals at a timber estate project in Sungai Ara village.

The findings started two days ago when police officers spotted a number of trucks transporting logs in the area. "This aroused suspicion as there are no longer permits to harvest logs here," Gusti said.

In March the police also discovered hundreds of logs, allegedly illegally harvested, that had been buried and then exposed by major flooding.

No suspects have been named yet, but the police said they were questioning executives of two wood companies.

Gusti said that along the first canal, officers found 311 stashes of logs, each approximately 50 cubic meters in size, and another 626 stashes along the second canal, 819 along the third, 754 along the fourth and 1,217 along the fifth.

"The discovery site is located adjacent to natural peat forests," Gusti said, adding that he thought the logs were stolen from nearby protected forests.

He further said his officers had summoned several witnesses from a number of forest concession holders near the finding site.

In order to cover the thefts, he said, their owners had tried to grow Acacia mangium plants at the harvested sites. "The Acacia mangium trees are between three months and one-and-a-half years old. We're investigating the case with the assistance of a number of experts," he said.
Head of Riau's forestry office Zulkifli said that as of April 2007, his office had no longer issued permits to harvest from natural forest concession holders and other companies developing timber estates there.

"If logs continue to be transported out of the area, it means they have been harvested from illegal logging activities," he said.

Zulkifli said his office was ready to assist the police in investigating the case.
Susanto Kurniawan, coordinator of Working Networks for Salvaging Forests in Riau, said the latest findings proved illegal logging was still common in the area.

"Laymen surely know that local forest concession holders knew about the stashes of the logs. It's impossible for them to claim they knew nothing ... especially when the stashes are in such large quantity," Susanto said.