Friday, 5 February 2010

More forest guards needed to prevent thefts: Official

More forest guards needed to prevent thefts: Official

Wasti Atmodjo , The Jakarta Post , Jembrana | Fri, 02/05/2010 1:49 PM | Bali

Bali Forestry Office has urged the central government to increase the number of forest guards to prevent the mounting cases of illegal logging and thefts in Bali's vast forested areas.

Made Gunadjaya, head of the office, made the statement while visiting the West Bali forest conservation site in Jembrana.

He said that there were only 14 forest guards to control and to protect the island's 66,763.41 hectares of forests in Jembrana (West Bali), Buleleng and Tabanan regencies.

The remaining 60,000 hectares of forests are scattered across the island.

The majority of Bali's forest areas contain teakwood trees, albesia, mahogany and other expensive wood commodities.

"Ideally, one forest guard controls an area that spans no more than 300 hectares of forests," Made Gunadjaya said.

"Currently, each has to oversee 2,500 hectares of forests."

He acknowledged that it was difficult to handle illegal cutting and illegal logging done by individuals, as well as professional syndicates, due to limited human resources and equipment.

"Despite the limited number of human resources and supporting facilities, Bali Forestry Office has managed to crack down on many illegal logging activities and thefts," Made Gunadjaya said.

"The forest guards have shown extraordinary commitment to their duties."

In 2007, the office recorded 65 cases of illegal logging.

The cases dropped to only 10 cases in 2009.

The amount of confiscated logs reached 38.810 cubic meters in 2007; 153.92 cubic meters in 2008; and 144.04 cubic meters in 2009.

In the last three years, the office confiscated 145.881 cubic meters of teakwood stolen from productive and conservation forests in Bali.

Based on the Forestry Ministry's Decree No. 48, issued in 2006, anyone caught stealing wood and forest products may face at least one year in jail and heavy fines.

"Unfortunately, we have not yet been able to send violators to court," Made Gunadjaya said.

"Many were local residents living adjacent to conservation forest."

To cope with this lingering problem that implicates and affects the local community, Bali Forestry Office has had set up a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with traditional village (banjar) communities to jointly protect the forest.

"We will create traditional forest guards *pecalang* with the help of local community in an attempt to monitor activities in the forests," Made Gunadjaya said.