Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Forest Crimes: Political will is needed

Forest Crimes: Political will is needed

PILI - May 5, 2008

During the first quarter of 2008, news and developments on the Indonesianforest still bring great sorrow.

Post the Conference of Parties 13 (CoP 3)on climate change in Bali, December 2007, the fate of the Indonesian junglehas been reversed 180 degrees; it has become gloomy.It began from the government regulation No. 2 2008 on the forest renttariffs.

Following that is the detainment of House of Representatives member, Al Amin Nur Nasution, who is involved in bribery charges on the conversion of protected forest areas into parts of city areas in Bintan Regency.

Forest conservation is clearly not in the minds of the parliamant nor the government. That was in Jakarta.

Similar condition also occurs in other parts of Indonesia. Since long ago to present day, illegal logging still remains an unresolved problem. Although vast amount of forest areas have been destroyed by hazardous chainsaws, illegal loggers are still after the remaining forests. Forest clearance has become a nightmare for this nation.

It is never over, and never ends. Evidences have been collected and piled up high. In the beginning of April, the Indonesian National Police from 14 Regency and towns from Central Kilimanjaro held operations simultaneously. About 750 illegal timbers were discovered around Muara Bulan, Katingan Regency. Meanwhile, in Sampit, Kotawaringin Timur Regency, about 1200 timbers were recovered. Also, 750 illegal timbers were found in Arut River, Pangkalan Bun, Kotawaringin BaratRegency, and in Buntak and South Barito, there were about 1200 timbers recovered.

Other than that, operation previously held at Pulang Pisau Regency have also recovered and confiscated about 5244 illegal timbers inS ebangau Kuala District. In Sumatra, illegal loggers are also destroying the forest. The South Sumatra District Police Confederation Team, Polair Directorate, and Musi Banyuasin Police District confiscated 12904 illegal timbers and 639 cubic meters of processed wood, suspected as the result of illegal logging activity.

In Riau, officials have found tens of thousands of logs at the industrial timber plantation (HTI) owned by PT RAPP. Thousands of unlicensed timbers of various sizes and forms were found buried in three locations at forest areas in Gunung Sahilan Sub-District, Kampar District.The grave of the illegal logs were unearthed by flooding that occurred in the area.

The thievery of this green gold were reported heading to neighboring countries. Officials have detained not less than 94 tons ofillegal logs heading to Malaysia in Tanjung Parit and Tanjung Sempayang seas.

In March, stolen logs were also discovered in Ketapang, West Kalimantan.The police have detained 19 ships and 12 thousand meters of logs that were being smuggled to Kuching, Malaysia. It was said to be worth Rp 208billion. The police have so far arrested 26 suspects. Six of them are Ketapang Forestry Department Officials, including Head of ForestryDepartment of Ketapang, Saiful Hudari Iskandar.

The national police also questioned West Kalimantan Head Police District Brig. General Zaenal Abidinand other officials at Ketapang Police Sub District. In Riau, a number of government officials were also being questioned in relation to illegal logging cases, including 4 district heads in Riau being questioned as witnesses in issuing license for forest management. They are Indragiri Hulu District Head Raja Thamsir Rahman, Indragiri Hilir DistrictHead Indra Adnan, Kampar District Head Burhanuddin Husein, and PelalawanDistrict Head Tengku Azmun Jaafar.

Hence, if that is the case, what will become the future of the Indonesian forest? Forest crimes have occurred for so long. And, during that period,almost each year, operations to eradicate illegal activity have been conducted but yet without any significant effect.The forest criminals are getting more and more experienced and slicker, however, law enforcement still stand the same.

Efforts to eradicate illegal logging will never succeed if it is handled at the downstream of the problem. The main issue is really in the upstream, in the forest areas,from the source of the problem. The government should have taken extraordinary steps. It seems that this mega biodiversity country does not have the ability to manage its own natural heritage.

Illegal logging and corruption must be treated equally. On top of that, the government should have a political will to save the forests.This political will has long been empty. With a cross-country network, the illegal logging mafia should be treated with precaution. Law enforcers should not only conduct collective operations at a certain given time and then after that, no other follow activities. Moreover, the executives, the parliament and the local government should also have the same vision in saving the nations forests. Therefore, before pointing fingers to neighboring countries, the government should solve the illegal logging problems at home first.