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The Jakarta Post
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Forests remain under threat from acquisitive industries

Jakarta | Fri, May 4 2012 | 08:14 am

Several protected areas across the archipelago remain under threat of deforestation apparently due to the ineffective moratorium program launched by the government last year, environmental groups say.

The environmental groups have witnessed continuing forest destruction by several companies despite the moratorium.

On Thursday, Greenpeace, a member of the environmental groups’ coalition, published its findings on the current situation of Indonesian forests in Riau and Central Kalimantan provinces.

They estimate that 4.9 million hectares of primary forests and peatland, out of a total 71.01 million hectares covered by the moratorium, will be lost to palm-oil industries, coal mines and other forest conversions by the end of this month.

“The data shows that the forests and peatland are still at risk,” said Yuyun Indradi, Greenpeace Indonesia’s political campaigner.

The three largest protected areas are located in Kalimantan, with 1.9 million hectares; followed by Papua, with 1.7 million hectares; and Sumatra, with 775,371 hectares.

In Central Kalimantan, the regions worst affected by the industries are Pulang Pisau and South Lamandau. Meanwhile, the most endangered areas in Riau are Pulau Padang, Kerumutan, Kampar peninsula and Senepis forest. They are all known for their extensive peatland coverage.

In its efforts to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD), the Indonesian government issued a presidential decree in May 2011, ordering a two-year suspension on new concession permits on primary forests and peatland.

At the time, the government said it would review the moratorium every six months. In November 2011, it published a revision, in which some areas were removed from the moratorium map, including the Tripa peat swamp in Aceh. The total area covered in the revision was 65.37 million hectares.

Forestry Ministry spokesman Sumarto Suharno told The Jakarta Post last month that one of the reasons behind Tripa’s removal was data from the National Land Agency (BPN) that indicated that those areas were suitable for commercial development.

The environmental groups have accused the government of turning a blind eye to ongoing deforestation by companies that were granted concessions before the decree was issued.

The environmental activists stated that those companies were “the ones that are continuing to destroy the environment”.

“It seems like the government condones these practices,” Muslim Rasyid, from the Riau Forest Rescue Network (Jikalahari), said.

Muslim added that palm-oil industries had also encroached further into the biosphere reserve in Bukit Kecil, Riau, adding that the Presidential Working Unit for the Supervision and Management of Development ( UKP4 ) knew exactly what was going on there, but had yet to offer any concrete solution.

Yuyun said that he and his fellow activists appreciated that several government agencies had sent investigative teams into the threatened areas.

However, he added that for the agencies, violations of environmental laws were unimportant.

“They issued recommendations, but what we really want them to do is to take stern measures to curb the ongoing deforestation. For the moment, they must stop the industries’ operations and review their permits,” he added.

The coalition concluded that by the end of this month, when the government is due to publish another moratorium revision, nothing much would have been achieved. (tas)

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