WALHI calls for logging moratorium

Down to Earth No. 74, August 2007

Indonesia's most prominent environment group, WALHI (Friends of the Earth Indonesia) has repeated its call for a logging moratorium across the country. The NGO says that annual deforestation is running at 2.72 million hectares - an area the size of Bali.

With only 41.25 million hectares of good quality production forests remaining, a higher demand for timber than supply and with the demand for biofuel driving the expansion of oil palm plantations, WALHI estimates that natural forests in Sumatra, Kalimantan and Sulawesi will be extinct by 2012. Timber prices will escalate as supply diminishes and most timber is sourced from Papua. In 2022, says WALHI, all natural forests in Indonesia will be gone and prices will climb higher as the country becomes reliant on imports.

The NGO says the moratorium - on logging and forest conversion activities - must be applied for at least 15 years. The period is considered sufficient to resolve management and policy conflicts and formulate 1) a protocol for conflict resolution, 2) a standard for ecological services in plantations and 3) the drawing up of a community forestry system as the standard policy for forests in Indonesia.

WALHI calculates that Indonesia's forestry industry contributed Rp 1.484 trillion (US$160 million) to the national foreign account deficit in 2006. This sum is reached by taking losses in revenues of Rp22.862 trillion from illegal logging (over 19 million m3) plus direct losses from flooding and landslides of Rp 8.158 trillion against foreign exchange income from forestry exports, which totalled Rp 29,536 trillion. The calculation does not include losses from timber smuggling, the costs of conflict or the loss in ecological value of forest resources.

WALHI proposes a five-stage implementation process for the moratorium, starting with a stop on issuing permits for logging and plantations in forests. The process would also include the government fulfilling previous commitments on restructuring the wood industries to tackle overcapacity and on restructuring tenurial rights. Starting with Sumatra and Sulawesi - whose forests are most threatened - the logging ban would extend to all of Indonesia within 2-3 years. Logging would only be permitted in plantation forests or in forests managed by local communities.

WALHI first proposed a logging ban in 2001 (see DTE 49DTE 56)


Aceh logging moratorium welcomed

A commitment to suspend logging in Aceh from May this year, announced by Aceh governor Irwandi Yusuf, has been applauded by WALHI. Aceh's once vast forests have been decimated by logging companies over the past decades, many of them operating illegally. Recently, demand for timber for post-tsunami reconstruction work has added to overseas demand for logs to put additional pressure on the forests. Indigenous communities have struggled through the many years of conflict to hold onto their customary forests, in the face of destructive road schemes and plantation developments. Previous logging moratoriums have not been able to stem the destruction (see DTE 68 for more background).

(WALHI, Moratorium on Logging Now! www.eng.walhi.or.id/kampanye/hutan/jeda/070425_moratorium_logging_li/)