Saturday, 6 June 2009

Regional autonomy main deforestation culprit, not illegal loggings

Personal note: The main culprit IS Minister Kaban; no doubt about it. Minister Kaban is responsible for most deforestation but, off course, he tries to blame local villagers - which in my experience is totally unjustified.


Regional autonomy main deforestation culprit, not illegal loggings

Malam Sambat Kaban | Mon, 06/01/2009

Forests are vital to any efforts to address climate change as their destruction causes about 20 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Forests are now considered in a mitigatory context through the reduction of emissions due to deforestation and degradation (REDD). Under the mechanism, Indonesia, the world’s third-largest forest nation with about 120 million hectares, could harvest huge financial incentives by preventing deforestation. However, the country is facing problems to reduce deforestation.

Forestry Minister Malam Sambat Kaban talked with The Jakarta Post’s Adianto P. Simamora on its efforts to deal with forest problems. Below are the excerpts:

Question: What is the state of illegal logging in the country?

Answer: Many Indonesians around forests are dependent on their livelihood from forest products, both timber and non-timber commodities.

They harvest timber to sustain their daily lives. They take timber illegally. They also use forest products to develop the local economy. These small-scale illegal loggings occur across the country, mostly in West Kalimantan and Aceh. But we will not tolerate such practices because it is prohibited by forestry law. We will take legal action.

For example, in Aceh since the tsunami disaster, the economic activities have declined sharply.

Both former members of the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) and local people who were victims of the conflict needed to survive after the tsunami, and one way of doing so is by taking forest products.

I can assure you that illegal logging cases, particularly the large-scale ones, have declined sharply in the past four years. In the 1990s, there were about 9,600 cases but the total had decreased to only hundreds of cases and mostly on a small-scale with only dozens of cubic meters of timber taken at a time.

Does this mean illegal logging is no longer behind deforestation?

We squashed large-scale illegal logging during the last four years.

The government actively combated illegal logging through law enforcement efforts, campaigns on public awareness and open cooperation with international partners.

We have been very open about illegal logging issues. I hope international communities also realize our serious efforts in combating illegal logging. We are very seriously handling it and our timber exports are legal, so it should be rated with “premium” prices by foreign buyers.

So, what are main causes of deforestation in Indonesia?

There are many non-forestry activities triggering deforestation in the country. The new influential factor is regional autonomy. The Forestry Ministry was not involved in discussing regional autonomy.

But the main victim of regional autonomy are forest conversions.Forests have also remained the victim of economic development, such as the building of towers, mining activities, new city openings or extensive plantations.

How does the government balance rate of deforestation and rehabilitation?

Under then president Soeharto, the rate of forest deforestation was about 900,000 hectares per year.

In the last four years, we have only had 200,000 hectares of deforestation.In response to deforestation, we launched the “one man one tree” program under which any individuals or companies clearing forested land should plant more trees. The forest concession holders have the right to harvest 9.1 million cubic meters that would be taken from about 250 hectares of the forested land, if they can plant trees in one million hectares, so the speed of rehabilitation would be four times higher than deforestation.

This is our way in balancing deforestation with rehabilitation. It is now a matter of public awareness.

How do you see the REDD in combating illegal logging?

The REDD is not everything when it comes to protecting forests. But it is crucial to help combat illegal logging since we can run the REDD projects in all types of forests.

The mechanism will benefit our forests, including concession holders, timber plantation industries (HTI), conservation forests and community-based forests.

So, if anyone has two hectares of forested land, they could apply for the REDD projects. That’s why I demand the REDD use simple methodologies to encourage people to host the projects and make it work. The REDD should prevent complicated systems under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM).