Monday, 2 February 2009

Forests ‘remain in bad shape’

Adianto P. Simamora , The Jakarta Post ,

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Forests ‘remain in bad shape’

Mismanagement of forests, which creates conflict among local residents, continues to reign 10 years after forest decentralization.

A seminar Friday concluded that forest decentralization, which granted authority to local administrations to manage their own resources, had continued to destroy forests and heighten conflict among local communities, instead of improving the forests’ condition.

The government granted forest management to the local administrations in 1999 with the hope that they would carry out sustainable forest management to benefit local residents.

“There are many mistakes and weaknesses [from forest decentralization]. Until now, we don’t have a format that can satisfy all stakeholders,” Tachrir Fathoni, head of research and development at the Forestry Ministry, told the seminar’s participants.

The discussion, aired by the Green Radio station, was organized by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) in a ceremony to launch a series of books on forest decentralization.

CIFOR expert Godwin Limber, who was also editor of the book, said that decentralization had not succeeded in promoting sustainable forest management and improve people’s welfare.

“There is little improvement in terms of income of the people living around the forest. Certain groups get more than others and this causes conflicts,” he said.

The book was based on the group’s 10-year field study of forest decentralization in Malinau regency, East Kalimantan.

“What is happening in Malinau depicts decentralization throughout the country,” he said.

In its study, CIFOR observed the conflicts along the Malinau River where 10 ethic groups reside.

It said that the conflicts were often due to competition over the benefits from timber.

“The problem is the absence of a mechanism to resolve the conflict. The tribal leaders seem powerless to end the conflict,” Limber said.

CIFOR found that only eight conflicts took place between 1967 to 1996. But during the reform era, from 1997 to 1999, conflicts jumped to 17 cases.

“About 73 percent of the conflicts (or 63 cases) took place after forest decentralization in the period from 2000 to 2002,” the book said.

Limber said that with the decentralization, everybody talked about their rights but forgot about their responsibility to preserve the forests, which accelerated their destruction.

“Many groups claimed an indigenous status to get ‘exclusive’ rights to manage the forest for their own benefit,” he said.

Based on the 1999 Autonomy Law, local administrations are not allowed to convert their forests without permits from the Forestry Minister and the House of Representatives.

Many regencies have submitted proposals to the Forestry Ministry for spatial planning changes.

Executive director of the Indonesian Environme