Minister cautions local forestry officials
Adianto P. Simamora, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta Thu, 05/20/2010
Regency forestry officials must be prudent when approving requests for commercial forest use, Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan said on Tuesday.
“Regents currently want to convert all [protected] forests into areas for other purposes,” Zulkifli said at a national forestry congress.
“Be careful or you may face criminal charges.”
Provincial and regency forestry officials attended the congress, which was intended to increase cooperation between the central government and local authorities in developing the forestry sector.
Zulkifli said that a high demand to convert forests, lack of state funds for forest protection and law enforcement snags were the greatest challenges to developing Indonesia’s forests.
The Forestry Ministry has a five-year contract with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to rehabilitate 1.6 million hectares of “critical” forests, plant trees in 2.65 million hectares of forests and stop illegal logging and forest fires, Zulkifli said.
“It is our target. We need cooperation to reach it,” Zulkifli said.
Millions of people live in poverty near Indonesia’s 120 million hectares of tropical rainforests, say independent reports. The country has the world’s third largest forest area.
Regency forestry agency officials should defend local people, said Zulkifli.
Local people should be given land to support their livelihoods and to prevent conflict in the forests, he added.
“You can require that industrial forest owners give 10 percent of their regions to local communities,” Zulkifli said.
“If we don’t defend [local people], then who will?
“It is not fair to reject requests for two hectares of forest from local people and give hundreds of hectares to big companies without hesitation,” he said.
One participant criticized the Forestry Ministry for not involving local officials when drafting regulations for the industry.