Tuesday, 4 May 2010

No Excuse For Firms Cutting Trees Illegally

No Excuse For Firms Cutting Trees Illegally

Source: The Jakarta Post – April 27, 2010

By Adianto P. Simamora

The government has asserted that it will no longer excuse plantation or mining companies found to have cut down trees on their concessions without permit. Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan has sent letters to governors requiring them to collect data on damaged forests and overlapping licenses. The governors have been ordered to submit their findings to Jakarta this month.

"The government's joint team will assess illegal forest changes to verify whether they are the result of permit snags or overlapping policies," said Hadi Daryanto, director general of forest production development at the ministry, on Monday. "The government will not write off the crimes of those who have converted forests without land-use permits."

He said the move supported a drive spearheaded by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to tackle the so-called forest mafia — illegal loggers who escape justice by bribing officials. The team will consist of officials from the Forestry Ministry, the Environmental Ministry, the National Police, the Attorney General's Office and the Corruption Eradication Commission.

He said the governors from Sumatra, Kalimantan, Maluku and Papua were required to expose the names of illegal companies and to discern where they were operating — on protected forests or in conservation areas. "If the companies operate in conservation areas, they clearly violate the 1999 Forest Law," he said on the sidelines of a two-day workshop on forest certification hosted by the WWF and the Indonesian Ecolabelling Institute.

Hadi admitted illegal forest conversion was now increasing mainly as a result of the regional autonomy act, which has encouraged local authorities to boost revenue by issuing more forest-conversion permits. Director of forest investigation and protection at the Forestry Ministry, Aulia Ibrahim, said the joint team of investigators would focus its investigation on illegal logging syndicates in North Sumatra and Central Kalimantan provinces.

He cited as an example that in North Sumatra there were 21 plantation companies that allegedly have converted areas of state forests. "Two owners of five firms have been investigated and those of another three companies are now in the process of being named suspect," he said as quoted by Antara. Minister Zulkifli earlier admitted that many of the protected forests had also been converted for commercial or infrastructure projects, such as roads, but that the status of the protected forest had not been changed.

The ministry earlier proposed a government regulation in-lieu-of-law be drafted to ensure areas that have already received permits for conversion or that are subject to overlapping spatial planning permits do not continue to suffer deforestation. Indonesia, the third-largest forest nation in the world, home to about 120 million hectares of tropical rainforest, saw its forests dwindle at a rate of 2.8 million hectares per year from 1998 to 2000.