The Jakarta Post
Trees on 50 hectares of land in Mount Rinjani National Park (TNGR), in Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara (NTB), have been felled by locals who claim the area is custom land they had owned for generations.
The head of the park management, Agus Budiono, told The Jakarta Post in Mataram on Thursday that land clearance had occurred in Bebidas subdistrict, Wanasaba district, East Lombok regency, since mid-July.
Besides cutting down trees, Agus said, locals also used heavy equipment to clear the land.
'We have reported the case to the East Lombok and NTB police,' Agus said.
He said the report had been made because the concerned people had failed to show ownership deeds for the land, which was located within the area managed by the park.
Agus said he had filed the report with the East Lombok Police in July, but no significant development in the case had been made. 'That's why this week we reported the case to the NTB Police, hoping that they will follow it up.'
Agus said the park, as stipulated in Forestry Minister Decree No. 280/kpts-II/1987, covered 41,330 hectares located in four administrative areas in West, Central, East and North Lombok regencies.
A number of NGOs and environmentalists expressed support for the move.
They said the slow handling of the case had resulted in more than 50 hectares of forest in the park being cleared. Unless stern action is taken, more damage could be done.
World Wide Fund Indonesia's small islands partnership and governance leader Muhammad Ridha Hakim said that as a national park, Rinjani had an unique ecosystem that was managed using a zoning system for research, science, education, cultivation, tourism and recreational purposes.
The government has been striving to make Rinjani a world geopark, which was expected to have economic benefits and keep the area's ecosystem functional.
'The TNGR is an important conservation area for the protection and preservation of natural and cultural resources globally,' Ridha told journalists in Mataram on Thursday.
He said letting such illegal activities continue and doing nothing about it was a violation of Law No. 41/1999 on forestry and Law No. 18/2013 on forest damage prevention and eradication.
Similarly, East Lombok Gema Alam NGO chairman Muhammad Juaini said people had economic reasons for such actions, yet such motivation was based more on short-term consideration without considering the sustainability aspects.
He also said a thorough study was needed to determine whether illegal mass land clearance was committed at the people's own initiative or whether there were opportunistic parties behind them.
'We ask the authorities to investigate the relationship between the people damaging the forest and other parties that encouraged them to go so far,' Juaini said.
The NGOs and environmentalists also encouraged the police to take stern measures against those damaging the park.
'We also encourage the environment ministry, and especially the TNGR, to improve the roles and functions of the TNGR conservation area,' he said.
The NGOs and environmentalists said the national park had yet to make economic and environmental contributions, leaving people and local administrations unable to see the benefits of the park.
Separately, NTB Police spokesperson Adj. Sr. Comr. Tribudi Pangastuti confirmed that the TNGR management had filed a report regarding the alleged illegal land clearance within the national park.
'We are examining the report and will follow up on it,' Tribudi said.
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