Jambi ready for reforestation efforts, gubernatorial election

Jambi ready for reforestation efforts, gubernatorial election

28 December 2009

published by www.thejakartapost.com 

Jambi is one of Indonesia’s vast forest provinces, with about 1.2 million hectares of forest. As concerns about the effects of climate change and global warming increase, Jambi is formulating reforestation efforts. The Jakarta Post’s Irawaty Wardany recently spoke to Jambi Governor Zulkifli Nurdin about the issues as well as preparations for the 2010 gubernatorial election, as Zulkifli will end his tenure in August.

Question: As one of main issues in Jambi is forestry, what is the provincial policy on forestry?

Answer: I’ve just returned from Copenhagen (the United Nations Convention on Climate Change) where I accompanied President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. At the meeting we could see there was much interest from various countries. We knew that China did not agree with policies made by other countries. That meant there was no agreement made by countries throughout the world
to reduce emissions, which is a really serious problem.

In Jambi we want to maintain our existing forest. We have decided to allocate 100,000 hectares of land to be included in the restoration forest program (including the Harapan Rainforest project).

In the era of Pak Kaban (former forestry minister) the program did not materialize, but with Pak Zulkifli Hasan (current forestry minister), we are in the process of making 100,000 hectares for the forest restoration program available. We will preserve elephants, tigers and much more.

There will also be another 120,000 hectares provided for restoration, but we do not know yet who will back up the program. There are many (countries) that are interested in the program because they all realize that forests are the key to filtering greenhouse effect and reducing emissions.

We spoke to the Forestry Minister in Copenhagen and we agreed that no matter what the result of the Copenhagen meeting, we would not change our plans to maintain our forest even though we lack funds.

So our goal is how to reduce emissions and Jambi’s policy is how to restore the forest without disturbing local residential areas because the main goal of the administration is how to make the people prosper.

What is your total target for the reforestation programs? How many hectares of forest will be restored and for how long? How much financial support will be provided by the Jambi administration?

We have not discussed the amount of hectares of forest that will be restored, or the exact budget, but I’ve spoken to the President about that and I said that it was impossible for us to finance the program, so we need (financial) aid both from the central government as well as from foreign sources.

This is our forest, so we must maintain it together.

I have reported to the President that if this program is fully handled by the provincial administration, it will not be effective because we have to provide infrastructure that will absorb a large amount of our provincial budget.

We have to focus on infrastructure development to support Jambi’s economic development.

Sometimes we even have to allocate our budget for other programs and infrastructure programs.

Take for example the fertile area of Cilangkap. Crops and harvests from the area cannot be sold due to infrastructure problems. That is why we need to focus on infrastructure.

We have developed a port in Samudera Muara sabak as well as a 2.3-kilometer bridge to the pier from the city (of Jambi) and 155 kilometers of road. We built them to increase our economic growth.

Jambi’s growth during 2008-2009 was 7.16 percent. That’s the highest growth rate in Sumatra and we are ranked third nationally.

How will Jambi balance reforestation and infrastructure programs?

We have spatial design plans that designate which areas can be developed and those that cannot. We will stick to that to ensure well-designed development.

Jambi’s branch of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) said that deforestation in the province reaches 24,000 hectares annually, how can you catch up with the rate of deforestation with your restoration program?

Deforestation is mostly caused by outsiders who go into the woods,cut the trees and establish fields in the area. If they can’t sell the wood, they just work on the fields, but mostly those people are not
from Jambi.

So deforestation is mostly caused by humans, beside of course, fires that occur during dry season, which always cause forest fires, especially in peat land. If we have a long dry season, the peat land usually becomes really dry. So there are two main causes of forest fires, some are caused by people, while others arise form natural causes.

Peat land burns easily because it consists of rotten wood and tree roots that create hollow spaces beneath the earth, as well as dry bushes that can be set alight by strong rays from the sun.

We haven’t found a way to extinguish them yet. All we can do is spray water into the earth, but
we never succeed because the fire is always below the earth’s surface. Often it only emits an excess of smoke.

In 2006, we had really bad smoke from forest fires that both Malaysia and Singapore complained about. I explained to them that we could maintain the forest together, rather than just complain, but we all must learn how to maintain the forest on a limited budget.

How can we finance the Manggala Agni (forest firefighters) and how can we finance the fire extinguisher equipment?

Now we have 340 Manggala Agni officers, but they cannot handle 1.2 million hectares of forest. I estimated that we would need up to 1,000 firefighters throughout Jambi province, but it all depends on how much money we have.

Jambi, with its 1.2 million hectares of forest must also face illegal logging, how do you deal with that matter?

Currently, the Forest Concession Rights (HPH) are issued under strict regulations.

Even if we issue the HPH, the holders must provide some reforestation funds that are distributed to the province where the forest was utilized. However, according to my experience, no reforestation funds have been received by the province or regions even though hundreds of hectares of our forest has been utilized. Most of the funds for reforestation flow to the central government and have not yet benefited our region.

Jambi is one of the provinces that will have a gubernatorial election in 2010, how are the preparations so far?

The preparations have been quite settled, we have not had any problems as yet. The general elections in 2004 and 2009 and the regional elections all went well. We haven’t had any riots or anything like that. Therefore we expect the upcoming gubernatorial election will go smoothly also.

You’ve been the governor since 1999, will you participate in the upcoming gubernatorial election?

No. I can’t and I won’t.

During your period, what do you consider as your achievements and failures?

As I said earlier, the economic growth rate this year was 7.16 percent, which is the highest in Sumatra and the third nationally. Secondly, income per capita has improved from Rp 450,000 (US$47) to Rp 2 million.

In trade, there are many mining companies that are now investing in Jambi. I hope my successor will continue to serve the people’s basic economic and development needs that I started.

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