Lawenforcement weak, forest destruction worsens: WWF
TheJakarta Post, 23 December 2003 By A. Junaidi
Jakarta, 23 December 2003 — Heightened illegal logging activities and poor law enforcement worsened forest destruction across the country in 2003, a noted non-governmental organization said in its year-end review on Monday.
“Forest destruction has worsened if we compare it with last year,” World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Indonesia senior policy advisor Agus Setyarso announced at a press conference.
Due to rampant illegal logging and ineffective legal action, Agus said, Sumatra has no more pristine forests, while Kalimantan and Papua will encounter a similar experience in the next three to four years.
“Among hundreds of forestry crimes reported to police this year, less than 50 cases were considered worth investigating. We predict less than 50 cases will be brought to court,” he said.
According to Agus, a former lecturer at Gadjah Mada University’s School of Forestry, forest destruction reaches 3.6 million hectares annually.
As of 2002, at least 23 million hectares of the country’s 140 million hectares of forests had been destroyed.
He also said that local law enforcers and administration officials were under the control of businessmen involved in illegal logging, making it impossible for authorities to deal firmly with illegal loggers.
Besides involving state officials such as regents, police and prosecutors, Agus said, illegal loggers, locally called cukong, also hire local people to give the impression that their business benefits local people.
“Based on our latest study, the people become poorer. They change their job from a land manager to just a worker for illegal logging,” Agus said.
Agus revealed that local people who in the past could find logs three kilometers from their homes now had to walk about 10 kilometers.
He said that in many areas, businessmen engaged in illegal logging created new social problems despite the fact that they provided basic needs for their workers. One such problem is the appearance of brothels.
“Nature has reacted to this severe situation with several disasters such as massive flooding and landslides. Flooding has occurred in places that never saw floods in the past,” Agus said.
To wage war against illegal logging, Agus suggested a cooperation between environmental non-governmental organizations and the government to strengthen law enforcement.
He demanded the government take firm and fair legal action against administration elements found protecting illegal logging, to prevent more damage in the years to come.
WWF Indonesia’s Global Development Alliance Manager Anwar supported the importance of cooperation among various institutions to fight illegal logging.
Anwar claimed that his organization had set up an alliance with international buyers and local producers to avoid the use of illegal logs.
“Last year, we delisted about 200 buyers among 800 buyers who were found buying products that used illegal logs. We hope in the future, the number of buyers and producers using legal logs will increase,” he said.
Last month, the Office of the State Minister of the Environment released a report titled The Indonesia State of Environment Report 2002 which shows the continuous damage to the environment.
The report, which was financed by the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP), reveals, among other things, the increasing area of critical land as a result of the swelling population, rampant forest fires and illegal logging which cannot be addressed properly because of the complexity of the problem stemming from the extensive number of involvedparties.