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More or less protection for forests in Indonesia?

By Dave Armstrong - 05 Jun 2013 13:25:40 GMT
More or less protection for forests in Indonesia?

The critically-endangered Sumatran tiger, Panthera tigris sumatrae, is one of several much-loved mammals due to become extinct as their habitat is destroyed, even within their own reserves. Illegal logging, palm oil plantations and mining surround them. 5 years ago, there were a maximum of 679 left; Sumatran tigers image; Credit: © Shutterstock

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of Indonesia acted 2 years ago to outlaw logging permits for virgin rainforest throughout the extensive archipelago of Indonesia. Corruption and various loopholes have enabled a wide disregard for the government's action. Palm oil is the tree of choice for industrial giants and smaller operators alike in the previously large forests of Indonesia. Soap and biscuits have replaced the biodiverse inhabitants of pure jungle.

Pulp, paper and tissue companies have also joined mining groups in this devastation of natural vegetation types, even in swamps and deep jungle. Even the obvious and characterful orang utan has been driven from its home and then killed, but invertebrates and small vertebrates have even less chance of survival when many of them are undescribed and unseen. Many more new species are found every year. All of this forest loss makes Indonesia the biggest palm oil producer and the third biggest carbon dioxide emitter. That is surprising when you consider the enormous industry of China and the US, above them in this sad league table.

Permits given out before the moratorium 2 years ago, or for secondary forest, are of course perfectly valid. The areas now being destroyed are very large- the size of a small country - in Aceh Province, for example. What one country has done to help is provide incentive to slow this forest loss. Norway has pledged $1 billion. according to Kumi Nadoo, the Greenpeace international executive director. Norway's offer was conducted through the UN as part of their climate change commitments. The president's response was the moratorium and last month the ban was continued for another 2 year span. Hopefully the slowdown in deforestation might bring Indonesia more cash from their Norwegian sponsors.

The chances are, however, that the massive "colonisation" of Indonesia by the multinational companies who run these deforesting industries will cause no slowdown in forest loss at all. Instead, the profit motive and the incredible lack of human rights afforded to indigenous people lost these particular groups 10 million hectares (24.7 million acres) over 10 years. Jakarta politics is rife with land-grabs and transmigration policies (to facilitate "growth"), nowadays largely in distant Papua and Sulawesi. The dispossessed can then be sent to prison for talking about the situation. "Now you can be sent there for talking about corporations," says Abetnego Tarigan, director of Friends of the Earth Indonesia in Jakarta.

The tigers, the rhinos, the orang utans and the great trees that used to reign here have largely disappeared. The fabulous pieces of tiger habitat for those two above have gone: someone forgot to leave them the trees they need.

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Topics: Deforestation