Wednesday, 8 October 2008

RI dismisses 'Guinness' forest report as 'slanderous'

Personal note: Anyone visiting Indonesia would be horrified at the level of deforestation, much of it caused by the government itself selling off forests to palm oil companies.

RI dismisses 'Guinness' forest report as 'slanderous'

Adianto P. Simamora, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta 8th October
For the second year running, Indonesia has entered the Guinness Book of World Records as the country with the highest rate of deforestation on the planet, with forest loss equivalent to 300 soccer fields each hour.

On Monday, State Minister for the Environment Rachmat Witoelar promptly labeled the report "slanderous", claiming it used obsolete data on Indonesia's forests.

"I am very disturbed by the report, because references it used were not valid," he told reporters.

The 2009 Guinness World Records, released in September, ranked Indonesia's deforestation rate as the world's highest, at 1.8 million hectares per year between 2000 and 2005 -- a loss of 2 percent of its forests each year.

Indonesian forests were cleared at the rate of approximately 52 square kilometers each day, or 300 soccer fields every hour, it said.

In its 2008 edition, Guinness World Records named Indonesia as the country with the fastest deforestation rate, based on data from, among others, global environment watchdog Greenpeace.

Rachmat stressed the deforestation rate in Indonesia had been curbed to 1.08 million hectares per year in the period between 2000 and 2005.
Forestry Ministry data shows that the deforestation rate was a steady 1.8 million hectares annually between 1987 and 1997. It then spiked to 2.8 million hectares per year until 2000, due mainly to severe forest fires. However, between 2000 and 2006, the rate fell to 1.08 million hectares per year.

Rachmat said the government had taken several steps to protect forests as part of its contribution to the global reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

"We protect our forests; many provinces and regencies have also launched a logging moratorium to protect their forests. They are also eying profits from REDD," he said, referring to the reduction of emissions from forest deforestation and degradation scheme.

REDD was adopted at the Bali conference on climate change last December as a mechanism to slash emissions.

Rachmat said Guinness had apparently sought references from Yale University, which published a report in July that caused an uproar among Indonesian officials.

Indonesia protested Yale's environmental performance index (EPI) report, which ranked Indonesia 102nd out of 149 polluting countries, mainly due to unbridled deforestation.

The report said Indonesia produced 85 percent of its carbon emissions through deforestation, putting the country just behind China and the United States as the world's biggest emitters.

It said forests were almost wiped out on the heavily populated Java Island, while Sumatra had lost 35 percent of its forests and Kalimantan had lost 19 percent in the 1990s.

Following Indonesia's protest, Margaret K. Musser of Yale's School of Forestry and Environmental Studies wrote to Rachmat in August, saying the accuracy of the index was not endorsed by the Yale administration.
The Indonesian government repeatedly claims to have curbed illegal logging in recent years through law enforcement.