Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Big fish in illegal logging still at large

Big fish in illegal logging still at large

Adianto P. Simamora , THE JAKARTA POST , Sat,

Law enforcers have been unable to catch the big fish in illegal
logging despite a decline in the number of cases, raising fears among
officials of an international backlash that may threaten ongoing talks
on carbon trading in the forestry sector.

Of 597 people convicted of illegal logging in the past two years, 326
were sentenced to less than a year in jail and 128 to less than two

"About 76 percent of the perpetrators are just accomplices such as
drivers. None of the people arrested were sentenced to maximum jail
terms for illegal logging," Puspa Dewi Liman, deputy director for
program and evaluation on investigation and forest protection at the
Forestry Ministry, told a conference in Bali.

"We are not happy with law enforcement on this issue, it is not harsh enough."

Data from the ministry showed illegal logging cases hit a record high
in 2006 with 1,700 cases, before declining to 490 cases in 2007 and
170 last year.

Forest experts gathered in Bali on Friday to discuss the link between
tackling illegal logging and implementing carbon reduction programs
from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD).

The annual forest conference organized by the Asia Forest Partnership
(AFP) has focused on illegal logging issues since 2002.

Interpol secretariat official Peter Younger said illegal logging was
rarely a priority.

"Police prioritize on the basis of public perception, political will
and instruction. Simply, illegal logging is rarely on the public
agenda in comparison to other immediate issues.

"To the vast majority of police, there is no argument that crimes of
violence, drug and human trafficking and terrorism are a high law
enforcement priority. Illegal logging by comparison, to a large
proportion of the population, simply doesn't register," Younger said.

Interpol was set up in 1923 to facilitate cross-border police
cooperation and support for organizations and authorities to combat
international crime.

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) estimates that 70 countries are affected
illegal logging. The World Bank said illegal logging in Indonesia
caused between US$10 billion and $15 billion in lost revenue to the
government in 2006.

Krystof Obidzinski from the Center for International Forestry Research
(CIFOR) said that 1 million hectares of forest in Indonesia was lost
annually due to illegal logging.

"Policy crackdowns often focus on the *little guy' with the chainsaw,
not the big guy with the bank account," he said.

David Cassels, a senior policy advisor at the Nature Conservancy, said
the implementation of REDD could help combat illegal logging in
countries with forests, as the mechanism would provide extra funding,
including financial incentives to implement sustainable forest
management. "There would be synergy between an effective REDD
mechanism and combating illegal logging practices," he said.