Illegal logging and forestfires have been blamed for the rapid destruction of lowland forest on Sumatraisland over the past few years, an environmental activist said on Saturday.
According to World Bankdata, lowland forest cover still amounted to 5.6 million hectares in 1985, but12 years later the forest area had shrunk to 2.2 million hectares.
“So, in other words,some 3.4 million hectares of forest had disappeared in 12 years,” said thespokeswoman for the Indonesia Sumatra Bird Life group, Putriana Chandra.
She said that the area oflowland forest was continuing to decline. As of recently, there was only some650,000 hectares of lowland forest left, spread through Jambi, Riau and SouthSumatra provinces.
“If we don’t stop theillegal logging and forest fires, the forest will have completely disappeared by2010,” she said.
Despite the rapid pace ofdeforestation, the government was slow to take measures to stop the illegallogging and forest fires, she said.
Only less than 40 percentof the forest area was designated as conservation areas, she said. There weretwo conservation areas, the Bukit Duabelas National Park consisting of 60,500hectares and the Bukit Tigapuluh National Park, with 144,000 hectares.
The trees in lowlandforests with an elevation of 150 meters had a very high economic value, Putrianaexplained, including meranti trees, with the result that illegal loggingwas rampant, she said.
Some endangered species ofplants were also found there, such as the rafflesia arnoldi and amorphopallustitanium, which were now threatened with extinction.
Not only plants, butanimals were also facing extinction as their habitats continued todisappear.
There were some 196species of fauna that were threatened, including the Sumatran elephant, Sumatrantiger and Sumatran rhinoceros. The total populations of these three species onlyamounted to between 100 and 200 individuals at the present time. There were alsosome 154 bird species on the verge of extinction.
In order to prevent moredamage being done, Putriana urged the government to issue and implement aministerial decree on the restoration of ecosystems.