Thursday, 14 January 2010

Ministry: Illegal Logging Skyrockets During Indonesia's Year-End Enforcement Break

January 13, 2010

Camelia Pasandaran The Jakarta Globe

The government on Wednesday said that illegal logging activities had intensified during the end of 2009 and early 2010.

“[The loggers] saw a chance to act during our break,” Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan said at the Presidential Palace during an official event promoting the planting of the rain tree, known locally as trembesi . “It happened from Dec. 15 until likely the end of January.”

Zulkifli said between end of 2009 and early 2010, the officers who supervised illegal logging could not visit the affected areas. “[Illegal loggers] are aware of this and take advantage of it.”

Though he couldn’t give an exact figure for the increase, he said illegal logging had spread to several new areas, including Lampung, North Sumatra and East Kalimantan.

“The illegal logging even happened in cities, which have low tree populations, such as in East Java,” he said.

In Java, Sumatra and parts of Kalimantan, illegal logging is usually done for local use.

But in other parts of Kalimantan and Papua, the logs are mostly smuggled across the country’s borders.

Zulkifli said his ministry had asked local government, the Navy and Army, the police and civil organizations to help fight illegal logging. “We have also opened a report center for illegal logging,” he said.

This recent spike was unfortunate as deforestation has been significantly reduced, the minister said.

“In the past, deforestation activities were as high as 3 million hectares [per year], and now it is under 1 million hectares,” he said.

“People who do it are mostly local inhabitants who give the logs to a broker. However, it is more difficult to catch the broker than the local people.”

Greenpeace Southeast Asia said recently that logging contributed an additional 40 percent to the country’s carbon emissions. It called for a logging moratorium, which Zulkifli said was impossible. The government has allotted in the 2010 budget Rp 350 billion ($38.15 million) for forest conservation.

At the same event, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono called for all Indonesian people, especially women, to initiate planting and taking care of trees.

“We should remember the fate of our children and grandchildren,” he said. “Don’t let the earth be destroyed because of the global warming and climate change.”

Yudhoyono said global warming would start greatly affecting the earth’s species by 2050 unless it was curbed. He wanted Indonesia to become part of the solution by conserving the forests.

“I hope there will be a national campaign to save the earth and the environment, not only campaigning for the election,” he joked.

Many varieties of tree could be cultivated both in villages and cities, Yudhoyono said.

“There is still vacant land where we could plant,” he said.

“When I have visited disaster areas such as floods or landslides, many of them happened because of a lack of trees.”