Illegal logging continues unabated in Sumatra

Illegal logging continues unabated in Sumatra


While conservation groups lobby to end illegal logging in two provinces in Sumatra, loggers find new and ingenious ways to beat the system.

Illegal logging remains an intractable problem in Sumatra, Indonesia, as discussed in two reports in The Jakarta Post on 28 January 2011. Vulnerable forests mentioned in these reports are the Merang production forest in Musi Banyuasin, South Sumatra, and the Way Kambas National Park (TNWK) in Lampung. Poor control of illegal logging in these areas has raised concern amongst conservation groups for the survival of the flora and fauna in the forests.

Merang Production Forest, Musi Banyuasin, South Sumatra Province

In the Merang production forest in Musi Banyuasin, tree cutting is reported to be “getting out of hand” and wood processing is “getting busier.” This is in spite of a temporary ban on sawmill operations imposed in December 2010 by the South Sumatra forestry office.

With seven sawmills still in operation, thousands of cubic meters of meranti timber are being felled, says Anwar Sadat, executive director of the South Sumatra office of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi). Sadat expressed frustration with the fact that local officials and the police do not acknowledge this situation.

The meranti, a dipterocarp belonging to the genus Shorea, is valued for its light to medium weight timber which is used for veneers. Oils and resins are also derived from the meranti.

Way Kambas National Park, Lampung Province

Concerning the Way Kambas National Park (TNWK) in Lampung Province, this protected rainforest is stated to be severely threatened by illegal logging. TNWK is home to many species of rare plants and animals including Sumatran tigers and Sumatran rhinoceroses, and is targeted for the establishment of a rare flora and fauna rehabilitation center.

Lampung Governor Sjachroedin Z.P. remarked that unless deforestation in the park is slowed down, resident wild animals will face serious problems. Indeed, this is already the case, with the number of Sumatran tigers remaining in TNWK reported by Sumianto, Coordinator of the Sumatran Tiger Rescue and Conservation Foundation (PKHS), to be less than 30 animals.

TNWK office head, Awen Supranata, explained that rehabilitation of the park is underway, with progress in retrieval of 6,000 hectares of peripheral land, eviction of residents of local fishing communities and removal of buffalo from the park.

Concern voiced by conservation groups

Citing “backroom deals” as a factor in the weak supervision and lack of control of illegal logging in the Merang production forest, Adio Sayfri of the Wahana Bumi Hijau Foundation has called for leadership from South Sumatra Governor Alex Noerdin to combat illegal logging and to involve members of the community and conservation groups in this endeavor.

In the Way Kambas National Park situation, director of the Lampung chapter of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi), Hendrawan, has expressed doubt that the rehabilitation described by the park office head will be effective unless firmer action is taken to eliminate illegal logging.

Illegal loggers find ways to beat the system

While conservation groups lobby the government for change, the loggers are finding new and ingenious ways to beat the system and continue their activities. As an example of this, the illegal logging problem in TNWK is becoming complicated by the fact that the loggers have recently taken to hiding felled trees on river beds while forest rangers are patrolling. When safe to carry on, the loggers retrieve the submerged logs and stack them onto trucks where they are concealed beneath sand.

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