Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Govt urged to review forest concessions in Riau

It's no surprise that the Minister of Forestry does not want his ministry investigated by the anti-corruption officers.......who are looking closely at numerous cases of illegal logging etc.

Jakarta Post 14th May 2008

Govt urged to review forest concessions in Riau

Rizal Harahap, The Jakarta Post, Pekanbaru

The Indonesian Environmental Forum's (Walhi) Riau branch urged the government Tuesday to revise numerous controversial industrial forest concessions issued contrary to the law.

The forum was responding to Forestry Minister M.S. Kaban's recent statement, which asked authorities in the province to stop issuing new concessions to end illegal logging prevalent in the province.

"The statement comes too late as the forest has already been damaged. There is in fact no space left for new licenses here. The minister is just giving lip service," said Walhi Riau coordinator, Jhony Setiawan Munding, here on Tuesday.

The forestry minister at the weekend said his office would no longer issue new concessions that allow forest in Riau to be converted into industrial forests.

He said there had been an adequate number of concessions given in the province and that the measure was being implemented because many concessions were overlapping.

Jhony told he Jakarta Post on Tuesday that according to a 2004 survey 3.2 million hectares out of 6.8 million had been converted into palm oil plantations.

"We have 2.5 million hectares of forest left in the province including the national park, nature preserve, protected forests, and critical areas," he said.

He said 160,00 hectares of forest in Riau was damaged each year since 2002.
"What the forestry minister must do is not to stop issuing new concessions, but rather to review the ones issued through corrupt and conspirative practices, as indicated by recent Corruption Eradication Commission arrests of several regents and other officials in the province," Jhony said.

In 2005, the Ministry of Forestry verified 36 concessions in the province. Only five were issued in accordance with procedure, he said.

Many other concessions have been questioned because they are part of natural rainforests.
"Industrial forest concessions can only be issued for coarse grass areas, bushes, or critical fields," said Jhony.

The controversial concessions, according to Jhony, were mainly issued by local regents who did so without approval from the local legislature councils, the governor or the forestry ministry.
Most were issued between 2002 and 2005 with a belief that in the era of autonomy forests were under the authority of the regental governments.

"Forest conversion requires the minister's approvals," said Jhony.
Forest concession holders have to use selective cutting, he said, while industrial forest concession holders are allowed to slash all trees in their land areas.

Spokesman for pulp and paper mills PT Indah Kiat Pulp and Paper (IKPP) Nazaruddin said the government's pledge to stop issuing new concessions would not affect his company's timber production.

"With the areas we have, we are confident we can still supply nine million tons of raw materials to meet our 1.9 million-ton pulp production capacity," he said.

He said his company currently has a concession area of nearly 300,000 hectares plus its partner's area of 300,000 hectare.

Nazaruddin said his company was presently promoting the development of the people's forest to empower locals and to maintain raw materials supply to the mills.