The Jakarta Post
The East Kalimantan Police have discovered that two locations in the Manggar River Protected Forest (HLSM) in eastern Balikpapan have been illegally logged and cleared.
'Both areas have been cleared up to 40 hectares and 25 hectares,' said the East Kalimantan Police's environmental crime division investigator Comr. Tohari Kuswitanto on Wednesday.
Tohari added that based on investigations, several parties had been found responsible for felling trees and clearing forest in the restricted area, including the presence of tracks from heavy machinery.
'We are currently gathering evidence and tracing those involved,' said Tohari.
Conversion of a protected forest without a permit violates Law No. 32/2009 on the environment, Law No. 26/2007 on spatial planning, Law No. 18/2013 on forestry and Law No. 5/1990 on conservation.
The Environment Law does not just impose criminal sanctions but also the obligation to restore damaged areas.
'So, the perpetrators can be imprisoned and required to restore the areas they have damaged,' said Tohari.
The protected forest serves as a buffer and water catchment for the Manggar River, which flows from the west to the north of Balikpapan and supplies raw water from its upper reaches to the city-owned Tirta Manggar tap water company (PDAM) that serves 78,000 customers in Balikpapan.
The Manggar River begins from the Manggar Reservoir, located 15 kilometers from the heart of Balikpapan, and empties 25 kilometers into the Makassar Strait.
The river delta is surrounded by residential areas included in the Manggar subdistrict administration in East Balikpapan.
The measures taken by the police have been fully supported by the Balikpapan municipality.
According to municipal secretary Sayid MN Fadli, 55 locations have been found to have been cleared in the western, northern and eastern parts of the city.
As many as 42 of them were not equipped with permits while seven others held permits but had not operated in accordance with the permits.
'We are concerned about the situation and glad the police have intervened because so far they [the perpetrators] have [acted] as if they disregarded our agencies, such as the Environmental Agency [BLH],' said Fadli.
According to Fadli, the perpetrators included companies and individuals, who usually operated by using heavy machinery, such as excavators. The moment Public Order Agency (Satpol PP) personnel or officers from the BLH learned about such activities, they would immediately travel to the location in question, he added.
'We seize the ignition key to the heavy machinery and immediately prohibit them from operating, but the next day the heavy machinery operates again by using spare keys. So, let the police deal with the issue now,' said Fadli.
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