Friday, 19 June 2009

Traditional forest under threat of extinction in West Lampung due to illegal

Oyos Saroso H.N. , The Jakarta Post , Bandarlampung | Fri, 06/19/2009 | The Archipelago

A traditional forest in the western part of Lampung province is threatened by extinction due to the rampant illegal logging of forests in the area, warn environmental activists.

"The Repong Damar Forest will vanish within the next 10 to 15 years if dammar trees are logged everyday," said Kurniadi, the coordinator of Kawan Tani, an NGO that focuses on farmers.

"Repong Damar Forest has been a large part of West Lampung's identity for centuries," he added.

The forest stretches 200 kilometers in an area including the Krui coast, the Pesisir Tengah district and West Lampung province.

Kurniadi alleged that farmers from Krui had been selling illegally-logged dammar timber for the past five years.

Kurniadi said farmers mixed the dammar timber with other types of timber they had stolen from forests across Lampung, including the protected forest in the South Bukit Barisan National Park.

West Lampung Forestry and Natural Resources Agency head, Warsito, said that dammar timber was more valuable than dammar tree sap, thus making it more attractive for farmers to log the trees.

Agency data shows that the West Lampung area, 78 percent of which is forest, is one of the main targets of illegal loggers.

Of the total forest area, 39,191 hectares are protected, while 33,358 hectares includes limited production forest area and 280,300 hectares are located within the South Bukit Barisan National Park.

Hendrawan, director of the Lampung branch of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi), said a recent investigation by his group revealed that illegal logging activities remained widespread in protected and national park areas.

During the investigation, he said the Walhi found around 100 cubic meters of timber, or 697 logs.

The logs, four-meters in diameter, had been cut from meranti trees.

The Wahli also found 25 cubic meters of illegally logged timber from West Lampung early this month.

Thieves, he said, had even used bulldozers in the past 10 days to transport illegal timber from river areas to trucks.

This illegally logged timber, mainly from meranti and mascal trees, was processed in the forest before being transported through Way Pintau River, crossing the national park area, he said.

"That timber will hidden by the dammar timber *illegally logged from Repong Damar Forest* after being carried through the river, to deceive local police and forest officers, because dammar timber can be legally traded," said Hendrawan.

Afterwards, he said, the timber would be loaded onto larger trucks and transported to Java.

Poor law enforcement was one of the reasons behind rampant illegal logging, he said.

"Thousands of cubic meters of illegally logged timber has been confiscated in the past five years, but thousands more has been smuggled out," said Hendrawan.

The West Lampung Forestry Agency seized 90 cubic meters of illegal timber in Bengkunat in the regency late March this year, while the Lampung Forestry Agency detained two Fuso trucks carrying 40 cubic meters of illegal timber logged from trees in Tanggamus, South Lampung, on May 29, 2009.