Monday, 8 June 2009

Forest settlers spark serious concern for regency

Jon Afrizal , The Jakarta Post , Jambi | Mon, 06/08/2009

The success of Merangin regency, Jambi province, in dealing with illegal logging does not seem to have put an end to problems related to forest protection, as the presence of illegal forest dwellers has become a matter of increasing concern.

Merangin Regent H. Nalim said recently that over 8,500 hectares of the regency's total 351,023 hectares of forests had been illegally cleared by forest dwellers.

"We have successfully controlled the illegal logging for the last three years but we are now facing the challenge of an increase in illegal forest inhabitants," Nalim said.

Sungai Tebal, Renah Durian Kuning, Sungai Sengak, Sungai Ladi, Sungai Bengkok, Pulau Tengah, Tanjung Mudo, Koto Teguh and Gedang subdistricts in the districts of Jangkat, Lembah Masurai and Sungai Tenang are all affected by the problem, according to Nalim.

He said 8,500 hectares of forest the region have been converted into plantations, tended to by over 4,000 families.

These people are mostly migrants from outside Jambi province, largely from Bengkulu and South Sumatra, he added.

"They cleared the forests and turned them into coffee plantations," Nalim said.

Nalim added that the issue is not migration, nor the cultivation of new plantations, but the conversion of protected forests.

He said clearing forests imposes a danger to both the Merangin people and administration as it could lead to landslides, floods and other natural disasters.

That was why, he said, in order to help control further damage, his administration, including its forest rangers, will conduct routine patrols in the forests.

"We have also supervised the people on the matter and asked for backup from the provincial administration," Nalim said.

Meanwhile, Budidaya, head of the Jambi Forestry Agency, said his office would raise the issue with the central government, as they are adept at dealing with issues of unlawful migration and settlements.

"If we deal only with inhabitants from outside Merangin, meaning it was an inter-regency matter, we could have handled it at the provincial administration level.

"Yet, as it also involves people from other provinces, we have to take it to the central government level," Budidaya said.