(The Jakarta Globe, 6 April 2010) -- President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono told his ministers on Monday to pay more attention to illegal logging and deforestation, saying the recent natural disasters that had struck the country were the result of environmental destruction.
“I again warn that we should not be lax in the fight against illegal logging,” Yudhoyono said before a cabinet meeting.
“Police, law enforcers, military, governors, district and municipal heads should be very serious in tackling illegal logging. Don't compromise, don’t be soft.”
The presidents orders come after a recent string of floods and landslides.
“The disasters prove that there has been environmental destruction,” he said. “Though the forest clearing occurred years ago, we feel the impact now, along with the changes to the global climate.”
Yudhoyono said he had instructed the relevant ministries and institutions to step up monitoring of woodlands.
“I want to receive reports on the condition of each province, each forest, and what has been done for reforestation, what has been done by its residents and what has been done by the businessmen who manage it,” he said.
Yudhoyono also called for massive reforestation and planting to combat soil erosion that led to landslides and flooding.
“We have to coordinate a national effort to plant more trees. If reforestation is not well-managed, it means nothing,” he said.
The president told his staff to ask civic and social organizations to work hand in hand with the government to save the country.
“We don’t need to be controlled by the world. We control ourselves, and it is in our own interest to save our motherland for the next generations,” Yudhoyono said.
He said that in the past there had been a massive effort to manage the forest well and tackle illegal logging. But lately he had not been receiving comprehensive reports.
“I warn again not to be loose. Let’s intensify” the monitoring, he said. “We do not know the term ‘backing’ when it comes to protecting certain people or protecting activities that destroy our nation.”
The president was referring to the “backing” powerful officials provide companies or individuals involved in illegal logging.
But Mardi Minangsari, forest campaign coordinator of the nongovernmental organization Telapak, said the real threat to the country’s forests was no longer illegal logging but conversions of woodlands into plantations.
“The illegal logging rate, based on our monitoring, has been declining since 2005, so the next step should be watching out for the deforestation rate from converting forests into palm oil plantations," Mardi said. “Illegal logging is selective logging where they leave out some of the logs, but if you intend to convert forests into plantations then you will need to clear cut the trees and burn them.”
She also said reforestation only worked theoretically, and the president should have spoken at a policy level.
“The policy seems to be contradictory,” Mardi said. “On the one hand there is a huge movement to reforestation but on the other the government allows the forests to be clear cut and opened for plantations, which was against its international commitment to reduce carbon emissions 26 percent by 2020.”
In 2006, there were 294 illegal logging cases involving 7,307 cubic meters of wood, but in 2007 the volume decreased to 4,726 cubic meters, while the number of cases rose to 345.