Monday, January 11, 2010


     Jakarta, Jan. 11 , 2010 (ANTARA) - The Indonesian government has been busy launching tree planting programs over the past few years, while environmental NGOs such as Greenpeace and WALHI have been actively promoting a logging moratorium in Indonesia's remaining forests.

        Indonesia has the third largest tropical rain forest area in the world after Brazil and Congo. The country's forests are habitats to various flora and fauna species including rare ones such as orangutans, komodo dragons and Sumatran tigers.

        However, the country's forest area have been shrinking rapidly due to rampant logging activities and forest fires which sometimes were started on purpose by farmers clearing areas for plantations.

        A number of domestic as well as international NGOs such as WALHI (Indonesian Environmental Forum) and Greenpeace have repeatedly urged the Indonesian government to declare a logging moratorium in order to save the remaining forests - habitats to rare flora and fauna -, as well as to mitigate the impacts of climate change.

        Environment Minister Gusti Muhammad Hatta said in Banjarmasin last Friday (Nov. 27, 2009), the rate of forest destruction in Indonesia had reached 1.1 million hectares a year.

        The government, however, has prepared a strategy especially since 2007 to deal with the impact of climate change by planting trees in massive numbers.

        President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono when observing Indonesia's Planting Day and National Planting Month in West Java, last Dec. 8, 2009, asked the nation to plant 4 billion trees by 2020 and 9.2 billion trees by 2050.

        "If we can achieve half of the target, the trees can absorb 46 billion carbon by 2050. The figure is indeed pessimistic, but if we could plant more trees, much more CO2 could be captured, and this will become our contribution to the world," the president said.

        Since the Yudhoyono administration has launched nation-wide tree planting movements in 2007, more than 280 million trees have been planted.

        Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan on the occasion said the One Man, One Tree (OMOT) program alone had so far managed to plant a total of 158 million trees of its target of 230 million.

        The forestry ministry had set a target of rehabilitating 500,000 hectares of forest areas annually starting in 2010.

        At the G20 summit in Pittsburgh, last September, Yudhoyono pledged to cut emissions by 26 percent by 2020 using the state budget and by 41 percent if developed nations gave the financial support to do so.

        Indonesia's chief climate change negotiator, Rachmat Witoelar, announced for the first time Indonesia would cut 700 megatons of greenhouse gas emissions or equal to 700 million metric tons of carbon dioxide or CO2 by 2020.

        "We estimate our emissions will reach 2,600 megatons by 2020 at this rate. We need to commit to a 700 megaton cut to protect the planet," Witoelar, a former environment minister, told a press briefing at the Bella Center during the Dec. 7-18 Copenhagen talks.

        Some environmental NGOs have hailed the government's greenhouse gas emission cut commitment, but they believe that a logging moratorium policy is necessary to support the commitment.

        "Indonesia is climate change's 'ground zero'. Stopping forest destruction here and around the globe is not only one of the quickest and most cost-effective ways to combat climate change but is essential in order to avert runway climate change in our lifetime," Bustar Maitar, a Greenpeace Southeast Asia spokesman, said recently.

        Currently, around 50 percent of the world`s total carbon reserves are in Indonesia's forests and peatlands. Of Indonesia's over two million hectares of peatlands, around 50 percent was damaged due to deforestation and forest conversion into plantation areas.

        Greenpeace Southeast Asia established a Climate Defenders Camp in Kampar Peninsula's forest in Riau Islands Province, Indonesia's Sumatra Island, last November 2009.

        Kampar Peninsula is one of the world`s largest carbon sinks. If the Kampar forests are destroyed by pulp and paper industries, that would be clearly contrary to President Yudhoyono`s commitment, Hidayati of Greenpeace Southeast, said.

        Responding to the Greenpeace's non-violent direct action in Riau, new Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan in Jakarta on November 19, ordered APRIL (RAPP) to halt its forest clearing activity on the carbon-rich peatlands of the Kampar Peninsula, pending review of their permits.

        Greenpeace hailed the decision and expected the Forestry Minister to do a comprehensive review of all the existing permits and concessions for pulp and paper companies in the Kampar Peninsula, said Maitar said.

        Shocking news about the country's forestry industry came from a report last November from Human Rights Watch (HRW) which pointed out that the corruption in Indonesia's lucrative forestry industry was costing the country US$2 billion annually.

        HRW's 75-page report, "Wild Money: The Human Rights Consequences of Illegal Logging and Corruption in Indonesia's Forestry Sector," found that more than half of all Indonesian timber from 2003 through 2006 was logged illegally, with no taxes paid.

        Using industry methods, including detailed comparisons between Indonesia's timber consumption and legal wood supply, the report concluded that in 2006 the total loss to Indonesia's national purse was $2 billion.

        "Widespread corruption in the forest industry is the dirty secret no one wants to talk about," said Joe Saunders, deputy program director at Human Rights Watch.

        Reported exports from its lucrative timber industry were worth $6.6 billion in 2007, second only to Brazil and more than all African and Central American nations combined.

        Ironically, the forestry revenues brought no benefit to the people's welfare, but to corruptors. Given the fact, a call for logging moratorium is indeed very relevant.

        "We are optimistic that the Indonesian government can start greenhouse cutting gas emission by imposing a moratorium on all logging activity in 2010," Bustar Maitar, a Greenpeace Southeast Asia spokesman, said in Jakarta on Monday (Jan. 11).

        A decision to declare a logging moratorium in order to reduce gas emissions could only be made by the government, he said, adding an effective way to cut emissions was by halting deforestation.

        Declaring a logging moratorium and stopping the issuance of permits to convert forests in peatland areas would not cost the government much , he said.

        Therefore, funding for climate change mitigation provided by the international world to Indonesia could be allocated for people's empowerment programs, he said. (f001/A/HAJM/17:00/a014)

        (T.F001/A/F001/A/A014) 11
-01-2010 18:34:13

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