Thursday, June 28, 2007

Indonesia: The forest assaulted by the forestry industry

World Rainfores Movement
Excerpted and adapted from "Social conflict and environmental disaster:
A report on Asia Pulp and Paper's operations in Sumatra, Indonesia", by
Rivani Noor and Rully Syumanda, August 2006,

Indonesia has the world's third largest area of tropical forest, after Brazil and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Although only 1.3 per cent of the world's total forest area, Indonesia's forests are home to 10 per cent of the world's flora species, 12 per cent of the world's mammals, 17 per cent of the world's reptiles and amphibians, and 17 per cent of the world's birds. Indonesia is the second country in the world in terms of wildlife richness. Indonesia's forests are also home to endangered
species such as orangutan, tigers, rhinos and Asian elephants.

Forests are the second largest contributor to the Indonesian national economy after oil. The State used revenue from the forests to maintain its power during the 32 year New Order regime under the former President Suharto. Forestry operations - in the form of forest concessions (Hak Pengusahaan Hutan - HPHs), industrial tree plantations (Hutan Tanaman Industri - HTIs) and other plantations (such as oil palm and rubber) - were distributed among the ruler's families, friends and partners, among key military officers and political elites as a reward for their loyalty. Those who controlled the forests had considerable wealth and power.

For forest-dependent village communities, forests have a completely different meaning. Abusive and destructive forest management has stripped forests and has greatly affected the rural poor. For these people, forests embrace cultural values. Most rural communities living outside the densely-populated islands of Java, Bali and Madura practice a combination of subsistence and commercial agriculture with gogo rice (upland, unirrigated rice), other annual crops and tree crops. They also collect various forest products, such as rattan, honey, resins, herbs, fruits, fish and wildlife, for both commercial and domestic purposes. About seven million people in Sumatra and Kalimantan rely for their livelihoods on their rubber gardens, which cover a total area of about 2.5 million hectares. In Sumatra, local communities manage about four million hectares of forest using various agroforestry practices which combine natural forest management and fruit gardens, without external aid.

Forest communities have a profound understanding of traditional forest management, which they inherited from their ancestors. This traditional forest management has been specifically acknowledged in the 1945 National Constitution.

As most forest peoples have no written or official certificates of ownership, the state under President Suharto ignored indigenous rights and exercised control over Indonesia's vast, profitable forest lands. Suharto's "New Order" regime included a development agenda which was driven by logging the country's forests. The state claimed more than 90 per cent of the total forest land outside Java. This so-called "state forest" was designated without either due process or proper compensation
for local communities. Mature forests which had been managed sustainably by indigenous communities for generations and which were rich in flora and fauna, were exploited for timber and converted into vast plantations of monocultures of exotic fast-growing trees.

The rapid expansion and development of wood processing industries exceeded the supply capacity of production forest areas and the plantations. As a result, the loggers expanded ever deeper into natural forests, logging in protected areas as well as state forest still claimed by indigenous communities. The World Bank, which has more recently produced critiques of illegal logging driven by the over-development of the pulp industry, is itself partly responsible for the problem. In the 1980s, the World Bank was one of the agencies involved in promoting the expansion of the pulp and paper industry. In 1984, for example, the World Bank financed a study, carried out by Finnish forestry consulting firm Jaakko Pöyry, aimed at "strengthening the structure of the Indonesian pulp and paper industry".

A research from the Indonesian NGO WALHI indicates that at least 72 per cent of the country's forests have been destroyed. In a press release in 2004, WALHI pointed out that the deforestation rate in Indonesia had reached 3.8 million hectares annually, the highest rate of forest loss in the world. To put this rate of forest destruction into perspective, this means that an area of forest equivalent to six football pitches is destroyed in Indonesia every minute. Based on this calculation, every minute the Government of Indonesia loses US$1,300 in unpaid tax and customs (three times the average annual income of an Indonesian family), while a few conglomerates and elite business people pocket US$24,000 from the theft of Indonesia's forests.

The impacts of this rapid deforestation have been widespread and various. Impacts on the environment include the loss of unique biodiversity, increasing occurrence of floods and drought, decreasing water quality and quantity, and increasing occurrence of forest fires that pollute the air and contribute to global climate change.

Although more and more people have become aware of the environmental impacts, they know little about and rarely discuss the impacts of illegal logging on human rights. The over-capacity of the wood processing industry and the inability of industrial tree plantations to supply the demands of this industry have driven the destructive exploitation of Indonesia's forests, both legal and illegal. As in other sectors that are illicitly profitable, criminal networks play an important role as blackmailers and protectors of illegal operations, which unhesitatingly use violence to put down opposition to their operations. In Indonesia, the illegal sector and the use of violence are often linked to governmental officials.

Ironically, deforestation and the loss of local communities' livelihoods are driven by government policies which the government claimed were designed to bring prosperity to the nation. Suharto's development concept, like the one adopted by many emerging industrialised countries, was to accelerate the expansion of the economy through natural resource exploitation. However, the goal of expansion of the economy became less important and was eventually, replaced by Suharto's agenda to
consolidate his power through political patronage, where he handed out permits for exploitation of natural resources. More than 62 million hectares of forest land were awarded as forestry concessions (HPHs), without a proper tendering process, to tycoons and state-owned forestry companies that had family ties to Suharto's family, or ties to the military. Although Suharto fell in 1998, the nation still lives with his regime's legacy of bad forestry governance and law enforcement.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

September 21st: International Day against Monoculture Tree Plantations

In many southern countries monoculture tree plantations are advancing rapidly, causing serious negative impacts on local communities as well as on the environment.

In the year 2004, following an initiative of the Brazilian “Network against the Green Desert,” an organization with a long track record of resistance to tree plantations, 21 September -national tree day- was chosen as a significant date to commemorate internationally the struggle against monoculture tree plantations.

In spite of the innumerable complaints against the impacts of these plantations, governments continue to promote forestry plans consisting of a package of legislative measures promoting large-scale plantations, mainly through subsidies, tax exemptions, soft loans, land concessions or other promotional mechanisms.

Those policies are increasingly being challenged by organizations and communities in affected areas and what follow are opinions from some campaigners in Africa, Asia and Latin America on this third International Day against Monoculture Tree Plantations.

Soumitra Ghosh, from NESPON and National Forum of Forest People and Forest Workers says: “India has a long experience of monoculture plantations that have destroyed forests and pastures, and livelihoods of people. We want no more monocultures and demand that the Government makes no attempt to hand over forest land to industrial houses for raising more eucalyptus or pine plantations. Let monocultures be banned everywhere.”

"Timber plantation expansion now being promoted by the South African government in the Eastern Cape province will not benefit local communities. Instead they will only bring more suffering to an already impoverished and marginalised region." said Wally Menne, chairperson of the Timberwatch NGO Coalition. He concluded saying that "The South African government must reverse its decision to promote the expansion of unsustainable timber plantations and should rather assist rural communities with sustainable projects around organic food production, tourism and small-scale manufacturing, that will genuinely help to ensure their long term welfare and self-reliance."

In the case of Chile, Lucio Cuenca, Director of the Latin American Observatory of Environmental Conflicts, affirmed "that if the Government really wants people to believe in its slogan of 'Citizen Government' it should first eliminate the laws the dictatorship enacted to make the rich, richer and which even now are still in force, such as Decree 701 that gave subsidies and special credits and tax breaks to carry out plantations." Cuenca also denounced that the companies have managed to implement new strategies getting the State bodies to grant even greater amounts of public funds for the promotion of plantations. He concluded by saying that "an increasingly impoverished society is subsidising companies that are getting richer all the time. This cannot be defined as ‘citizen government’."

Indonesia has a long history of forest destruction and substitution by large-scale oil palm and pulpwood plantations. Rully Syumanda, from WALHI/Friends of the Earth stresses that “the introduction of oil palm plantations has been made at the expense of forests and forest peoples’ rights and have made local communities poorer. The main issue is therefore that indigenous rights to land are recognised in national legislation and that the right to free, prior and informed consent allows communities to accept or refuse plantations on their land.”

In the case of Brazil, Carla Villanova, from Friends of the Earth, stated that "taking into account the negative impacts of the plantation experience in other parts of Brazil, we totally oppose the State and Federal Governments' plans to support plantation companies." She added that "what is needed is not the support to major industries, but government support to other productive alternatives, benefiting those who really need it."

“Peoples throughout the South are struggling against large scale plantations”, said WRM international coordinator Ricardo Carrere. “On this International Day against Monoculture Tree Plantations, we demand that governments put an end to the promotion of these socially and environmentally destructive plantations and to instead support efforts made by local communities to improve their quality of life in harmony with their environment”, he concluded.

Regulation on Land Acquisition

Campaign Updates: July 29th, 2005

Snowballing from the Infrastructure Summit 2005 in January, in May the government issued a presidential regulation (Perpres No. 36/2005) on land acquisition; a regulation many people see as a threat to people’s rights to their land.

The Indonesia Infrastructure Summit 2005, which took place in Jakarta, agreed to a Declaration of Action on Developing Infrastructure and Public Private Partnerships. The declaration was signed by the Coordinating Minister for Economic
Affairs Aburizal Bakrie, World Bank’s Vice President Jemal-ud-din Kassum, Director General of Southeast Asia Department of Asian Development Bank Shamshad Akhtar, Chairman of Indonesian Trade Chamber M. Hidayat and delegates from 19 countries.

At the summit, the government said it needed Rp 1,305 trillion for the development and the improvement of the infrastructure. To meet the need, the government invited domestic and foreign investors to participate in infrastructure projects.

In the first stage, the government has offered 91 projects worth Rp 205.5 trillion to the investors. To back the projects, the government pledges to issue 14 regulations (Media Indonesia, Sunday, 22/05/05).

In May, the government issued Perpres No. 36/2005 on land acquisition for development of public facilities. The regulation met with protests from people who think the regulation strengthens the government’s repressive and authoritarian efforts because the regulation allows the government to revoke people’s property rights to land (Perpres, Chapter II, Article 2(b)). People also see the regulation as the extension of the summit, which is deemed to work in favor of the investors rather than the public.

Walhi’s executive director, Chalid Muhammad, said the Perpres could justify eviction that is often carried out with violence, in the name of public interest. The Perpres could also ignite confrontation between people who lose their rights to their land and the government. “Therefore, the regulation could cause instability among the society. On top of that, it also could lead to violation of human rights,” Chalid said.

The implementation of the Perpres would likely deprive people of their source of livelihood. People who depend on earnings from forest resources or on sidewalk stores, for example, would be among the possible victims.

“We are afraid the government will use the Perpres to evict the people who are been dependent on the forests. The government would have an excuse to use forest for the benefit of investors, who would likely strip the forest to meet their industrial need,” Rully Syumanda, a Walhi campaigner on forestry said in a press conference on Wednesday, June 21.

The Perpres, besides violating a decree of the People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR) on land conflict settlement, also showed that the government was being confused in solving land problems, he added.

“The government has to annul the regulation because the content is against the people,” Usep Setiawan, deputy secretary general of Konsorsium Pembaruan Agraria (KPA) said.

He added that the deliverance of the regulation was premature because it should have been issued after the House passed the bill on land conflict settlement, which is mandated in the MPR’s decree (Tap MPR) No.IX/2001 on land reform and natural resources.

The decree, supported by another decree (Tap MPR No.V/2003), recommends the government and the House to deliberate: (1) Revision of the bill of land reform, (2) bill of land conflict settlement, (3) bill of natural resources management. Therefore, Walhi’s Post of People Against Eviction has organized a movement to challenge the Perpres.

“Considering the danger the Perpres poses, Walhi and other NGOs, united under the Coalition of People for Anti-eviction Movement, invite the public to participate in efforts to reject the Perpres,” Khalisah Khalid, the coordinator of Walhi’s post said.

“Walhi has opened posts at 24 of Walhi’s regional offices to launch a campaign against the Perpres,” she added. “We have scheduled September 20 as the day when we will submit the public support list to the Supreme Court, as a request for judicial review.”

Sumatra´s peat swamp forest threatened with collapse, must be protected

Environmental organizations: Unique forest ecosystem in Riau province, Indonesia must be protected of further damage by loggers and paper industry

Environmental organizations Jikalahari, CAPPA, ROBIN WOOD and Friends of the Earth from Indonesia, Finland and UK warn today that one of the largest tropical peat swamp forests in the world might collapse if logging operations and conversion of peat swamp forests into plantations by the paper companies APRIL and APP continue.

Lowland rainforest on the Indonesian Island of Sumatra has been almost entirely destroyed. The Kampar peninsula in the province of Riau still contains more than 400,000 ha of peat swamp forest making it one of the largest remaining lowland forests in Sumatra. It provides habitat for the Sumatran Tiger and other species threatened with extinction. Destruction of these peat swamp forests releases significant amounts of carbon that may foil intentions to reduce climate change.

Forests in Riau are still being destroyed to meet the demand of pulp and paper companies APP and APRIL. Together the two paper companies have already devastated a million hectares of rainforest to supply their operations with raw material and convert forest into acacia plantations. In the last two years APRIL alone destroyed 50,000 hectares of peat swamp forest in its Pelalawan concession and built a road to access the Kampar peninsula.

The forest on the Kampar peninsula grows on top of more than three meters of peat soil. Due to the ecological fragility of deep peat soils, this type of forest is protected under the Indonesian law. Clearing and draining peat swamp forests cause peat degradation and disastrous fires. The resulting carbon emissions contribute to the greenhouse effect - in Riau province alone the carbon stored in the peat soils amounts to annual carbon emissions from fossil fuels in the whole world.

A study of ProForest, consultants hired by APRIL to assess ecological impacts of plantations in the Kampar Peninsular, indicates that the company has already damaged the water balance of the Kampar peat swamp by building a controversial road and drains that cut the peninsula in half. The existing road, along with further forest conversion and drains planned by APRIL may lead to the collapse of the entire swamp ecosystem. The Kampar peninsula was proposed as a national park by Jikalahari in December 2005 because of its cultural significance, unique biodiversity, ecological properties and importance for the world’s climate.

“Peat swamp forest on Kampar peninsula must be declared protected to stop any further intervention by loggers or the industry, and managed with the full involvement of local communities and indigenous peoples”, said Rully Syumanda, forests campaigner for Friends of the Earth Indonesia.

The environmental organizations demand a full stop to clearing of rainforests for pulp production. “As long as APRIL and APP continue to clear-cut natural forests, businesses, governments and nongovernmental organisations should freeze their relationship with this company” says Jens Wieting, ROBIN WOOD´s rainforest expert.


By Chris Lang. Published in WRM Bulletin 97, August 2005.

In 1999, the World Bank's Economics of Industrial Pollution Control research team published a report titled "Greening Industry". The report, which was the result of "six years of research, policy experiments, and firsthand observation", described Asia Pulp and Paper's PT Indah Kiat Pulp and Paper as a "success story".

Indah Kiat's operations at Perawang, Sumatra tell a different story, at least for local people. Indah Kiat started its first pulp mill at Perawang in 1984 with an outdated factory imported from Taiwan. The 100,000 tonnes a year pulp mill used elemental chlorine and wastes were discharged into the Siak River.

According to the World Bank, protests from local villagers about pollution from Indah Kiat's Perawang mill, led to "round one of the mill's cleanup". In 1992, Indonesia's Environmental Impact Management Agency, BAPEDAL, mediated an agreement in which, the World Bank tells us, Indah Kiat agreed to meet the villagers' demands.

Indah Kiat's factory at Perawang now covers an area of 400 hectares and has a capacity of two million tons a year of pulp and 700,000 tons a year of paper. Indah Kiat's new pulp mills use technology that is "largely chlorine free" according to the World Bank. Indah Kiat, the Bank would have us believe, is "an environmental paragon".

Unfortunately, as is often the case, the World Bank's enthusiasm about the environmental benefits of a massive industrial project bears little relation to reality. In 2004, Mats Valentin and Kristina Bjurling, researchers with Swedish NGO SwedWatch, reported that Indah Kiat uses a mixture of chlorine bleaching and elemental chlorine free (ECF) bleaching. Indah Kiat's management told SwedWatch that the company planned to change fully to ECF technology in the future, but added that "such an investment would be too large to bear right now".

In 2001, John Aglionby of the UK Guardian newspaper visited Indah Kiat's mill in Perawang. He described what he saw as "a monster blot on the landscape". The company's track record "has been a catalogue of environmental devastation, blatant disrespect for the local community and ignoring Indonesia's laws through a mixture of bullying and pay-offs to officials," Aglionby wrote. The journalist uncovered a list of payments made by Indah Kiat to government officials, police and army officers.

Six years research, it seems, did not help the World Bank's ace research team to uncover any pay-offs to government officials. The Bank's "Greening Industry" states simply that Indah Kiat's operation in Perawang "is fully compliant with national pollution regulations".

A year after the "Greening Industry" report came out, Inge Altemeier, a German film- maker, visited Sumatra to investigate the impact of pollution from pulp mills on local people and their environment.

She found and filmed an illegal outlet from Indah Kiat's mill, which the company used at night. During the day the output was not in use, but the air stank and dead fish floated in the river.

In a village near Indah Kiat's mill, people complained about the bad smell and told the film-maker that they were suffering from itching, headaches and vomiting. A villager called Tasjudin showed Altemeier his garden. Since Indah Kiat arrived, there are no more coconuts on his trees. The fruit on his trees is covered in black spots and it rots before it ripens. "Indah Kiat is ruining our lives. But what am I to do? This is my home, I have to live here," Tasjudin said.

Before Indah Kiat built its pulp mill, people could fish in the Siak River. They used the river for drinking water and for bathing in. Since villagers can no longer drink from the river, they demanded that Indah Kiat provide them with clean water. The company gave them a water pump. But villagers found that the ground water was also polluted and smelled bad. Villagers are forced to buy bottled water to drink. Many still wash in the river because there is not enough pumped water especially in the dry season.

Trabani Rab is a medical professor who has been monitoring the impacts of Indah Kiat's mill on villagers' health for several years. Altemeier travelled with him as he visited villages on the River Siak. In two days, he diagnosed more than 500 cases of serious skin diseases.

Earlier this year, two Indonesian NGO researchers, Rully Syumanda, Forest Campaigner with WALHI, and Rivani Noor, from the Community Alliance for Pulp Paper Advocacy, interviewed people in villages near to Indah Kiat's mill in Perawang. They also spoke to people living in Perawang. Villagers told them their vegetables, chillies and flowers did not grow normally, especially in the dry season. During the rainy season, a many of the villagers' hens and ducks die. They told the researchers they were sure that the cause was the smoke containing harmful chemicals from Indah Kiat's mill.

From 1987 to 1996, the air smelled very bad, villagers said. It has improved since Indah Kiat installed a filtering system on factory chimneys. But the air is still polluted and still causes respiratory problems, especially for visitors.

Villagers told Syumanda and Noor that before the mill started operations, fishers could catch 40 to 50 kilogrammes of fish a day in the Siak River. Today, they are lucky to catch four or five kilogrammes. Sometimes, they said, the river smells really bad and they cannot catch anything. Every month, the river gives off a bad smell for a week.

While consultants and financiers of Indah Kiat defend the company by pointing to company records of emissions from its factories, the smell, the pollution, the poisoned river and the dead fish remain. Local people continue to suffer from headaches, itching and incurable skin diseases. Far from being an "environmental paragon", Indah Kiat is destroying lives and livelihoods.

Related articles

Forest Fires Sweep Indonesian Borneo and Sumatra

11 September 2006


Officials in Indonesia say illegal burning to clear land has caused rampant wildfires across Borneo and Sumatra. Fires have destroyed millions of hectares of forest and farmland over the last month, and environmentalists and the government disagree over who is responsible for the destruction.

Officials of Indonesia's Forestry Ministry say eight million hectares have gone up in smoke over the last month, and fires are still burning out of control on the island of Borneo.

Government officials point to small farmers who use fires to clear land quickly and cheaply. But environmentalists blame Indonesia's failure to enforce logging controls and a ban on land-clearing fires.

The fires are a recurring problem in Indonesia. As in the past, a thick haze of smoke now threatens to disrupt air traffic in the affected area, and is causing health problems for people in nearby Malaysia and Singapore. Windborne smoke in Singapore is also worrying organizers of a meeting of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank this week.

Israr works with the Indonesian government's office that monitors forest fires by satellite. He says more than 100 "hotspots" were burning Monday on Kalimantan, the Indonesian part of Borneo, with tens of thousands recorded over the last month. He says the government's forestry staff is still assessing the causes.

"We don't know yet until we know the exact information from the ground," he said. "We'll get some reports, and we have a call center here, so all the field staff will report to here, where's the fire and what is the action in the field."

Indonesian officials say the majority of the hotspots have appeared in small community farming areas. The country's forestry minister says 60 percent of the burned area is farmland, and the rest is forest.

Rully Syumanda, an activist with the Indonesian Forum for the Environment, says big companies violate the countries laws more than the farmers.

According to a recent report by his organization, 80 percent of forest fires in Indonesia are caused by companies clearing land on big plantations, timber estates, and protected areas.

Syumanda says some of the government's efforts to prosecute firms are undermined by the country's criminal code, because police must provide evidence or eyewitnesses to show the fires were set on purpose. He says while penalties for illegal burning are severe, prosecutors are not able to make the charges stick.

He also says monitoring has not been thorough enough, and the police are not going after the right people. He says nomadic farmers who burn fields and big companies converting forest land for plantations or industrial uses are being treated the same.

On Monday, the country's police chief announced that 75 people currently face charges for illegally starting fires. The suspects' names have not been released.


By Chris Lang. Published in WRM Bulletin 101, December 2005.
Based on a presentation by Rully Syumanda and Rivani Noor at an International Meeting on Plantations, 21-25 November 2005 in Vitória, Espírito Santo, Brazil (organised by WRM/FASE-ES/GJEP).

Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) is one of the world's largest pulp and paper companies. The company is responsible for large-scale deforestation of Indonesia's forests. APP has also generated a number of not-yet-settled conflicts with local communities in Indonesia.

Forthcoming research by Rully Syumanda, Friends of the Earth Indonesia/WALHI's forest campaigner and Rivani Noor of the Community Alliance for Pulp Paper Advocacy (CAPPA) documents the company's grim record in Sumatra.

"We in Indonesia are facing so many battles about forest destruction, including tree plantations and the oil palm industry," said Syumanda at the start of his presentation. There are seven pulp mills, 65 paper mills and 10 pulp and paper mills in Indonesia. We are focussing on the biggest - APP's pulp and paper mill in Riau. "We face problems because of APP's plans to become the world's biggest pulp and paper exporter," said Syumanda. "The Indonesian government supports the growth of this industry."

Foresters working in APP argue that the company is rapidly developing plantations in order to supply its pulp mills without continuing to cut down old-growth forests. "APP is the golden boy of the Forest Department," said Syumanda, "because logging, plantations, pulp and paper dominate all."

But this industry is not serious about developing plantations. Plantations still supply only 30 per cent of the raw material needed. Destructive logging and/or illegal logging provides much of the rest. APP is converting forest to plantations. The company has used subsidies from the rehabilitation fund, which should have been used for recovering forest areas. Vast areas of APP's concessions overlap with community lands.

The main problem, Syumanda explained, is the over-capacity of the industry. The sheer scale of the industry means that land tenure conflicts cannot be resolved equitably. There is no protocol for solving the problems caused. But the government is not concerned about overcapacity. Instead it likes to keep the attention on illegal logging. "This has impacts," explained Syumanda. "Several peasants and farmers have been arrested for clearing their farmland for their own needs."

Any idea of restructuring the industry, including reducing its size, has been brushed aside by the need for fast money, at least partly to repay the company's huge debts. APP's debt, at almost US$14 billion, is the largest debt of any company in Southeast Asia.

Violence, human rights abuses, water and air pollution, forest fires and floods have become business as usual for the pulp and paper industry in Indonesia.

"Now we face the next challenge", said Syumanda. The government plans to develop another five million hectares of acacia pulp wood plantations. This is in addition to the two million hectares it plans to plant to oil palm in the middle of Borneo, and perhaps another eight million hectares of oil palm around the archipelago. "It's crazy," Syumanda concluded.

During the 1970s, the Indonesian government declared 140 million hectares of land as state forests, "thus asserting state control over forest resources traditionally managed by tens of thousands of local communities," added Patrick Anderson, Policy Advisor at WALHI. As with industrial logging concessions, the government gives out concessions to the pulp and paper industry regardless of who lives there and who traditionally used the forest.

One of the few rules by which the pulp and paper industry operates in Indonesia is that you build the pulp mill first - the plantations follow. "So for at least the first ten years, while the plantations are planted and growing, the mill will use natural forests as raw material," explained Anderson.

Indonesia has about 50 million indigenous people, with about 1,000 different languages. Although in theory indigenous land rights are recognised in Indonesia, the government does not follow its laws that recognize customary rights. Now that the plywood industry is in decline due to lack of big trees, the government is doing all it can to create an export economy in the pulp and paper sector.

Rivani Noor pointed out that on Sumatra there simply isn't enough forest left for the pulp industry to keep expanding. So APP has started pulp mills and plantation operations in China. But as with the mills in Sumatra, APP failed to secure raw material supplies before starting up its mills in China. As a result, woodchips from Sumatra's forests will be exported to supply APP's operations in China. APP also has a new concession in Kalimantan.

There are an additional three pulp mills proposed for Kalimantan. The South Korean Korindo Group has produced a feasibility study for a pulp and paper mill in Central Kalimantan. A group of Indian and Malaysian investors have filed a proposal with the Ministry of Forestry for a US$1.3 billion pulp and paper mill. If it goes ahead, the project would convert about 300,000 hectares of forest into plantations. Singapore-listed firm United Fibre Systems (UFS) is planning a project for South Kalimantan and is looking to secure European financial support. UFS is also in the process of taking over the existing Kiani Kertas mill in East Kalimantan, with Deutsche Bank acting as financial advisor to the company.

Not willing to limit its forest destruction to the island of Sumatra, the pulp and paper industry is busy planning its expansion into Kalimantan. If it does so, the results will be predictable and disastrous for people and forests.

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Orang-utan Face Extinction as Rainforest Destroyed for Palm Oil

JAKARTA / LONDON - September 22 - The Orang-utan is facing extinction due to the destruction of rainforest in Indonesia and Malaysia to set up oil-palm plantations, new research reveals.

The ‘Oil for Ape Scandal’, published today Septemeber 23 by Friends of the Earth and the world’s leading orang-utan conservation groups, concludes that without urgent intervention the palm oil trade could cause the extinction of Asia’s only great ape within 12 years [1].

Palm oil is found in many products on supermarket shelves, from bread to margarine, lipstick and soap. Despite being warned for years by environmental groups that oil-palm plantations are associated with rainforest destruction and human rights abuses, the report finds that most UK companies don’t even know where their palm oil comes from.

The report finds that almost 90 percent of orang-utan habitat in Indonesia and Malaysia has now been destroyed. Some experts estimate that 5,000 orang-utan perish as a result every year. The researchers found that oil-palm plantations have now become the primary cause of the orang-utans’ decline, wiping out its rainforest home in Borneo and Sumatra.

New evidence shows that orang-utan rescue centres in Indonesia are over-flowing with orphaned baby orang-utans rescued from forests being cleared to make way for oil-palm plantations. The Indonesian Government is now planning to convert a large part of Tanjung Puting National Park, the world’s most famous protected area for orang-utan, into an oil-palm plantation.

Research in the UK by Friends of the Earth found that at least 84 per cent of UK companies are failing to take effective action to ensure they do not buy palm oil from destructive sources and not one single UK supermarket knows where the palm oil originates in the products it sells. The story of corporate failure on palm oil is repeated across Europe. The European Union is the world’s biggest buyer of palm oil.

Two weeks ago the United Nations published the Kinshasa Declaration, an action plan backed by the UK Government to save the world’s great apes from extinction [2]. The Indonesian Government signed on to this agreement but so far the Malaysian Government has failed to do so. Friends of the Earth and the orang-utan conservation groups are urging both governments to adopt and implement the declaration and end the conversion of orang-utan habitat into oil-palm plantations.

They also say that the failure of European companies to take action shows that they cannot be trusted to act responsibly. They are calling on European Governments and the European Commission to legislate to stop European companies acting in such a damaging way.

Ian Redmond, Chairman of the Ape Alliance, said: “Governments that provide a market for palm oil must legislate to make their corporations responsible and accountable for their impacts. If not, it is we who will have to explain to our children that the orang-utan became extinct, not because of a lack of knowledge, but because of corporate greed and a lack of political will.”

Rully Syumanda of WALHI/friends of the earth Indonesia said:

"We cannot win the battle to save the Indonesian rainforest while companies in consuming countries continue to buy palm oil from sources linked to human rights abuse and species extinction. The Governments of these countries must legislate and force these companies to stop acting so destructively."

Research by Friends of the Earth shows that the forest fires which ravaged the island of Sumatra in August, and continue to burn today, were mostly set by palm oil companies clearing land to set up their plantations. It is estimated that one third of the orang-utan population on Borneo was killed by the forest fires of 1998.

Dr Willie Smits, Founder of the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation, aid: “The rate of loss of orang-utan has never been greater than in the last three years, and oil- palm plantations are mostly to blame.”

Professor Biruté Galdikas, founder of the Orangutan Foundation International, said: “The orang-utan is endangered because of habitat loss. Today the greatest threat to orang-utan habitat is the continued expansion of oil-palm plantations. Palm oil is the greatest enemy of orang-utan and their continued survival in the wild."

Dr Ian Singleton, Scientific Director for the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme, said: “We have already lost huge areas of orang-utan habitat and tens of thousands of orang-utan to the palm oil industry. Now there are reports of an “oil-palm fence” which will stretch 845 kilometres along the border with Malaysia in Borneo, crossing through orang-utan habitat. The problem is truly immense.”

PICTURES of orang-utan can be downloaded from:

FOOTAGE (Broadcast quality) of orang-utans and oil palm plantations is available from the press office at Friends of the Earth with thanks to the Orangutan Foundation.

Interviews with leading orang-utan scientists and campaigners are available.


[1] The report, The Oil for Ape Scandal – How palm oil is threatening the orang-utan, is published by Friends of the Earth together with the Orangutan Foundation, the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation and the Sumatran Orangutan Society as members of the Ape Alliance. For a copy of the summary or full report please go to: Summary:
Full report:

[2] The Kinshasa Declaration on Great Apes was signed on 9th September 2005. The signatories included range states for great apes as well as the European Commission and the following donor countries: Belgium, France, Italy, Sweden, United Kingdom and the United States

Jakarta serious about putting a stop to annual forest fires, haze: minister

Channel NewsAsia's Indonesia Bureau Chief Sujadi Siswo | Posted: 11 October 2006 2249 hrs

JAKARTA : Indonesia's Forestry Minister claims Jakarta is serious about putting a stop to the annual forest fires and haze.

The National Police has been ordered to investigate and prosecute the large plantations responsible, but the minister claims nature has hampered efforts to douse the fires.

Forest fires continue to rage in Indonesia's South Sumatra and Central Kalimantan.

Started deliberately to clear the land for farming, the fires have blanketed neighbouring South-East Asian countries in haze.

Singapore and Malaysia have urged Indonesia to deal with the problem in a more effective manner.

M S Kaban, Indonesian Forestry Minister, said, "We want to stress that the government is serious (about) preventing excessive haze from occurring. But here, nature also plays its part which makes it difficult for us to manage. The typhoon in the Philippines caused strong dry winds to sweep into Indonesia. In 24 hours, hotspots rose by 200 percent."

Indonesian authorities admit large plantations resort to indiscriminate slash-and-burn methods to clear or rejuvenate the land.

M S Kaban said, "Usually we can manage the haze better if there's no clearing of large plantations. But a huge plantation is opening in Kalimantan. Some of them have resorted to paying poor residents to burn their land. The Indonesian government has asked the National Police to investigate these companies and bring them to court."

But enforcement has not deterred the large plantations.

Since 2001, of the 11 cases brought against plantation firms for burning their land, only four made it to court.

This is because Indonesian law requires evidence to prove that someone actually starts the fire - which is almost impossible in the middle of a huge forest.

Instead environmental groups in Indonesia have been pushing authorities to hold firms responsible for their plantations.

Environmental group Walhi, which has some 40 groups under its wing, claims to have evidence that 23 companies in South Sumatra and Kalimantan have deliberately set fire to their land.

Rully Syumanda, Indonesia Environmental Group, said, "We want the National Police to take these 23 firms seriously. We will monitor the police investigation and will censure them if they drag their feet. We are tired. Every year Walhi monitors the fires but nothing has changed. We called for the law to be amended in 2003 but they refused to listen. As a result we face (the) problem of haze."

Groups like Walhi want plantation owners to be fined if their land catches fire, even if they are not caught in the act. - CNA/ms


Rully Syumanda[1]

Diemont and Verhagen claim that it is possible to increase oilpalm acreage without a high price (De Volkskrant, DATUM). In Indonesia we have a lot of experience with oilpalm plantations and their impact on the environment and the people. It is from this background that I would like to react to their article.

Deforestation continues in Indonesia. Even though illegal logging often was pointed at as the major problem, the conversion for the large scale plantation basically was the main cause deforestation in Indonesia with the figure 2,8 million hectare per year in 2004, descended from 3,2 million hectare during 2001 - 2002[2].

The conversion of the forest until now generally is allocated for the development of the oil palm cultivation. Since becoming the supreme commodity, there’s millions hectare of tropical nature forest being cut down. Between 1995 to 2003 more than 15.6 million hectare of nature forest was cut down. During 2004, this figure increase to 15.9[3] million hectare. However, the concession that was planted did not experience the significant increase. From 3.17 million ha in 2000, only increase to 5.5 million hectare in 2004[4].Hence, 15,4 million ha has been converted with the excuse of setting up oilpalm plantations.

From the total area for the oil palm plantation in Indonesia, 90 percent among them was in Sumatra and Kalimantan. Often, oilpalm concessions oevrlap with logging concessions for timber and pulp.

For example, in Riau Spatial Planning 2001-2005 there was more than 400 thousand hectare the concession that mutual overlaps.

Many of the concessions conflict with local community's landrights and landuse. Some of these conlicts have remained unresolved for decades until today. In one example in North Sumatra, the community of Pergulaan village is struggling to get back a plot of a modest 130 hectares which was illegally taken from them and cleared for palm oil. Despite a court order confirming the rights of the village, the oilpalm company still has not returned the plot of land.

In the Province of Riau (Sumatra) alone, of the 654 conlficts over landuse that occurred between 1998 and 2003, over 70%[5] was caused by oilpalm developments.

Even in cases where the primary forest may have been gone, there is still local communities living off the land. Their free, prior and informed consent needs to be guaranteed before any expansion of oilpalm can take place.

The forest conversion for oil palm plantation and industry plantation basically achieved saturation point and exceeded/over carrying capacity. Since 2002 the expansion of the oil palm plantation entered High Conservation Value Forest area. [probably before that as well I guess?] Several among them were in catchments area and the rest were the peat swamp area with the depth more than 3 meter. Riau and Jambi in Sumatra as well as land typology in Kalimantan were the peat swamp with the varying depth between 2 meter to > 3 meter.

With the (logging for) plantations encroaching into natural forests, water catchments areas and peat swamps come under increasing threats.

The conversion in catchments area caused so many problem. The trivializing of the river [In catchments area that was clear cut, the soil and sand will be brought by the rain water to the river. The river will become shallow. During heavy rain, the river could not keep the amount of big water so as to flood the surrounding area (the flood)made the river no longer could accommodate the overflowing of water that emerged suddenly. The flood became the annual Sumatran menu and Kalimantan, nearby forest fire.

As the picture, during 2004, the flood that struck the Jambi province caused the loss of Rp. 204 billion. In the year before, the flood in Riau caused the loss Rp. 684 billion or was equal to 64% Riau Annual Budget in 2002[6]. Hundreds of people lost their house and thousands hectare failed to harvest.

This figure basically depicted not balanced between revenue from the oil palm plantation sector and the impact. Made peat swamp as the oil palm plantation also caused the problem that approximately similar

Peat swamp was irreversible. It kept water in large quantities but when being opened it no longer could catch water. Peat swamp also functioned as carbon storage. When opened, not only millions ton water being released but also millions cubic meter carbon was released to the air[7].

At least there were three main problems of the forest conversion in the peat swamp area. Firstly, clearing peat swamp will release millions ton of water. At the same time the intrusion of sea water could not be evaded. In the Inderagiri Hilir Regency, Province of Riau, hundreds of head of household could no longer make use of their well water because of being most polluted with sea water[8].

Secondly was the forest fire. Peat swamp was the area with the Ph 3 - 4. It needs special treatment with the big cost to increase the Ph level in order to accordance with oil palm. For example, PT Adei Plantation Manager was punished 2 years in prison by the Kampar District Court in 2001 because ordered burning the land to increase the Ph level to 5 - 6 in order to be able to be planted the oil palm.

The burning of the forest in peat swamp and, third, the opening of the peat swamp area region will cause the greenhouse effect and influenced the global temperature. With the rate of nature damage at this time, was estimated some Scandinavian regions will experience the decline in the temperature through to 6 degree Fahrenheit during 2012, caused drought and cold that forced the Scandinavian population to be migrating from Europe[9].

Climate Change in 2012 was estimated also will cause conflict within the EU over food and water supply leads to skirmishes and strained diplomacy relation. [10]

With several anomalies that emerged from clearing the natural forest for the oil palm plantation, it is important for all of us to reconsider the policy of the fulfillment energy need from the unsustainable source like oil palm. This was important remembering several impacts will emerge that not only caused a loss to the exporter's country like Indonesia but also against several countries in Europe, mainly Scandinavian.

Considering the huge negative impacts of the large scale oilpalm monoculture, palm oil cannot be considered a sustainable source of energy for imports into Europe by anyone concerned with sustainable development.

The Netherlands should rather look into energy savings and truly sustainable sources of energy, in stead of looking at the people and remaining forests in Kalimantan and Sumatra to solve the energy problems for them. Only a cynical approach would allow for oilpalm developments to expand into forested areas, water catchments areas, and community's territories.

Conversion of forests and peat swamps will release huge amounts of CO2 in the atmosphere, with associated effects on climate change. The effects will extend beyond Southeast Asia and affect European countries as well. It is therefore also in the interest of the Netherlands to seek real solutions rather than to increase their palm oil consumption.

Friday, June 22, 2007


Rully Syumanda

It was always interesting to discuss about Indonesian natural forest. Noted as a country with the third most extensive forest in the world (after Brazil and Congo), Indonesia at the moment also as one country with the highest deforestation level in the world. Illegal logging, legal and illegal conversion associated with corruption are the inducement.

Up to 2005, the government claimed that Indonesia possess forest areas in extension of 126.8 million hectares with function as conservation (23,2 million ha), protected forest (32,4 million ha), limited production forest (21,6 million ha), production forest (35,6 million ha), and production forest conversion (14,0 million ha) .

Regardless the fact that it only possess 1.3% from the entire world’s shore, the natural wealth within has covered 38,000 kinds of plants (10% of the world’s plants are in Indonesia), added with 515 kinds of mammals (12% of the world’s mammals), 511 kinds of reptiles (7,3% of the world’s reptiles), 1.531 kinds of birds (17% kinds of the world’s birds), 270 kinds of amphibians, 2.827 kinds of avertebrata (IBSAP, 2003). There are also a number of rare species within, orangutan, tiger, rhineceros and Asian elephant, that made Indonesia as the second country that’s rich for its wildlife.

Along with that, the damage of Indonesia’s natural forest each year has increased. From 1950 to 1985, the number of the damage has achieved 32,9 million of hectares or equal to 942 thousand of hectares each year. The monopoly of 70 percent of plywood’s global market in the 80’s has also triggered the loss of forest in the amount of 45,6 million of hectares or with average number of deforestation 5,7 million of hectares per year (1985 – 1993). This was the highest number of deforestation took place in Indonesia. The existing number could be higher, as in the snow ball phenomenon. Up to 2004, degradated land in the forest has achieved 59,17 million of hectares and degradated land outside the forest area has achieved 41,47 million of hectares. Most of the damaged areas are spread in 282 River Basin .

Table 1. Indonesia Deforestation Speed 1950 – 2006

Degradation of natural forest in Indonesia has been recorded since 1788. Dirk Van Hogendorp, a number one resident in Patna (Benggala), was back in Batavia and became an administrator, has written his diary once he was appointed as the resident of Jepara ,

”This new postion of mine is very amusing. I have my concern on the existing forest in this district. The forest was damaged and abandoned and left by the pople who were forced to conduct the logging and to sell them for a very low price so that they had no interest in preserving the forest.”

Furthermore, by the time he returned to Netherland:

”The forest was belong to the state, or at least it belong to the pople. Let’s just pay the Javanese people to fell down the trees and to deliver the woods. The wages in such small amount would satisfied the Javanese people, and if we apoointed an honest person, he will then pay attention to the forest to be fell down regularly, to burn the plants underneath the trees, and to clean it right on time, and to plant the unoccupied areas, and then the Java Island would be providing all the need of woods for our Republic, in term of our navy and merchant fleet.”

There are a number of definitions of forest in our daily life. The various educational backgrounds or the origin of a person shall give different point of view regarding to the definition of the forest. The experience and knowledge of each person or society regarding to this issue shall also triggered the birth of this complex concept.

To be seen from the view of science that stressed its observation on the physical biology feature, forest is one of the ecologycal factors in the supporting system of the living creatures, including human. Basicaly, forest has its role in the water cycle that is for the rain, absorbtion and the flow of the river (Soemarwoto, 1983).

Beside having the hidrological function, forest also fuctioned as a storage for the genetic resources and maintain the balance of photosynthesis process that created oxygen for perpetuity of human (Soemarwoto, 1983).

Meanwhile, from the point of view of the government, according to Forestry Principal Regulation Act No. 5 Year 1967, forest is one field with trees as plants that entirely formed as bio natural-living unity along with the environment determined by the government as forest. Further mentioned that forest is a living unity capable of giving production advantages, protection and other advantages eternaly.

Interaction between forest and the community in Indonesia could not only be seen in the folktales or in the existing myths. In the reality, and also took place in this nation, in their early civilization human has a very spesific relationship with forest, whether in their role as hunters or as collectors of ingredients collected from the natural forest.

Up to the fourth century, in the period of Mulawarman Kingdom, the indigeneous tribe of Kalimantan were still live and maintain the equilibirium relationship with natural forest around them. The large amount of medicine and food nowadays were taken from the forest (their raw materials) and basicaly is the indication of the correlation existed through the centuries.

Today, the population has reached 219,9 millions of people , around 48,8 million of Indonesian people live in the forest and its surroundings (CIFOR, 2000). For them, the natural resources of forest were able to support their needs of clothes, food and housing materials, and in several places, forest also functioned as a medium in conducting their spiritual activities.

Most of the original farmers lived in the islands outside the Java, Bali and Madura islands-with high population, holding a practice of merger farm enterprise of subsistence and comercial between gogo rice and yearly plants. Various forest products were gathered to be sold and consumed as housing materials, including rattan, honey, resin of certain trees, leafs and fruits that could be consumed, including wild animals and fish.

Approximately 7 million people in Sumatera and Kalimantan depend on natural rubber plantation that spreads in the area of approximately 2,5 million of hectares. Only in Sumatera, approximately 4 million of hectares of areas managed by the local community in the form of various natural fruit plantation (definition: a plantation of various species of fruits merged with natural forest plantation) without any supports from outside.

Regardless the fact of not having written land certificate, the local community understand the traditional form of management as a legacy of customary right, specificaly recognized in article 18 Indonesian Constitution. However in the reformation era, since the period of guided non-parliamentary democracy with Act No. 5 Tahun 1967 regarding Forestry Principal Regulation, the legitimacy of Act No. 41 regarding Forestry was not at all caused any correction regarding the observation process. Claim from the government has been strictly mentioned in the relevant regulation regarding the issue that traditional forest is state’s forest that happened to be located in the territory of customary legal community. Meaning, if there’s a condition of one people has dominated and managed the forest long before the birth of this country and then wish to continue managing and taking advantages from it, he/she should apply for authorization to its new “owner” – state – government.

The argue regarding the rights of land has basicaly emerged long before the independence. In that era, it was understood that right of land in the Archipelago were similar, it was older than the rights of king. The King only occupied areas which were not occupied/managed by the community. However, the King also entitled to occupy land/forest that were previously occupied by community with adequate compensation. .

The similar case emerged and recorded in Dagregister (daily book) dated September, 21st, 1659: ”Close to Mandalika (a small island in northern Muria), located an extensive and very beautiful forest. The people were prohibited to collect woods for the fact that they were made as stocks for the collection of keel woods and Susuhunan ship mast .” Similar examples could also be found in private forest in French and England, specificaly managed for the fleet of war .

The occupation of Netherland brought different meaning to forest as natural resources. Unadorned, Netherland considered all forest resources (including unoccupied areas granted by treaty) were their own domain. Regarding the fact that the need to expand housing areas for the population and cultivation to support trading process, little by little the opening of areas and nomaden life were eliminated, for the reason of the government and duty, including the conservation of forest.

The prohobition of logging emerged for the first time in Batavia and for the permitted logging shall be charged to deliver duty in the amount of ten one (10%) . This relevant regulation,then continualy applied by the local government at the time. As we all know, right after East Indian Company (EIC) took over the regions that were previously handed over by Sunan, the system of the government was left untouched. EIC appointed Regent who was then assigned to control and manage the forest and apply the restriction of logging. However, the Regents did not received any salary from EIC, so that after conducting several obligations to EIC, each Regent obtained profit from its position and from the natural resources of forest in their regions. The amount of the previous duty ”ten one” was self-consumed and was not been delivered to EIC as a replacing authority of Sunan or to the existing owner of the forest. The ownership of forest in Java at the time, was sufficiently proven by the existence of”pole or mark”. Meanwhile, in other regions, the community considered forest as public property so that anyone could take anything in term of fulfilling their needs (housing materials, managment of rice fields or fish boat).

However, speaking of the right of ulayat, the relevant right had ”given in” to the right of King (authority). There was an opinion that people’s right of forest could only be addressed to certain group of people. Not valid for everyone. EIC furthermore used this opinion to determine its own domain.

In the era of guided non-parliamentary democracy, Soeharto as President turned otu to have the same plan. These very extensive and beneficial forest were considered lack of prove of official private ownership, that left them ”unoccupied” by anyone. Mechanical logging through the system of concession then being introduced by refering to the Government’s Regulation No. 21 Year 1970, regarding Forest Concession Right and Logging Concession Right. On the same time, the cultural system being ”improved” through the publishing of Guidance of Indonesian Fell Choose, which was then once again improved and becoming Indonesian Fell Choose Plant.

The main focus of the forest concession outside Java policy on the early level of national development (Five Year Development Plan) was the collecting of the biggest impossible amount of devisa through the export of log wood. Soon, forest being extracted and made as ”Development Agent” of New Ordo for three decades conducted unsustainably and based on the confiscation of 75 percent of total areas in Indonesia, and 90 percent of total areas outside Java island which was then named “state’s forest. ”

This status was determined by State, similar with the condition in the era of Dutch’s colonialization, without any eligible process (due process) or without any meaningful compensation given. Luxuriant tropical forest were fell down in term of collecting woods and then replaced with extensive plantation planted with exotic monoculture species that would easily grow in a straight line and cleaned from the second graded plants.

This Father of Development then also used billions of dollars from Reforestation Fund (collected from various wood companies, however was not returned to the government in term of reforestation) as fund that was used as a funding source of personal agenda of non-forestry development. The first Acts which were validated by Soeharto are Act of Forestry Principal Regulation , Foreign Capital Investment , and Domestic Capital Investment — an indication of the central role of investment in the sector of forestry. Creating high conversion process from forest to cash.

The capacity improvement of this wood eater machinery has given an amazing result. In the same year, pulp and paper industry has began to arise, using loan with no interest from reforestation fund, making it as the lowest production cost in the world . The Government then issued a policy that prohibited export of log woods in the early 80s. A policy that was not followed by a limitation of extraction added by various subsidies for wood companies to at first develop managment units in the end had ensured the domination of wood concession by small amount of giant wood companies focusing on the production of plywood.

Ekspansion and improvement of the production of forestry industry was finaly exceed the capacity of very large plantations in supplying raw materials and has urged the extension of plantation deeper into the natural forest. It was assumed that at least 72% of Indonesian natural forest has been damaged. Planology Body of Indonesian Department of Forestry had precisely estimated that in the year of 2004 there would be 101,73 million of hectares of damaged forest. However, in the year of 2005, Departement of Forestry has claimed that the damaged forest has only reached 59,17 million hectares.

In 2006 , the damage has reached 2,72 million of hectares per year. We have lost 5 football field in each minute. If illegal logging that took place every one minute was valued, the Government of Indonesia has lost its income from unpaid duty and tax in the amount of US$ 1300 (more than average income of three Indonesian family per year), and a limited family and elites business of conglomerate has earned 24.000 US dollars.

The impact of the loss of forest was very extensive and diversed. The scientist have long proved the consequence of extensive lost of forest toward the environment. This impact covered the loss of unique bio diversity, increasing frequency of flood and dryness, decreasing quantity and quality of water, and the increasing frequency of burning forest that leads to air polution with toxicated smoke, dust, ashes, and the emission of green house.

The great gap between supply and demand in the industry of Indonesian forest has instantly urged the loss of Indonesian forest, officialy or illegaly.

Ironicaly, even with the extension of the list of natural disasters , the impact caused by sector of forestry towards human rights was still seldomly discussed. Similar with other sector that was profitable and illegal, groups in the forestry sector were improved and acted as exploiter and protector from disturbing parties with violence. In Indonesia, ilegallity and violence took place in this sector often obviously linked to the aithorities in the government.

The loss of forest, land and means of livelyhood of the local people took place under various state’s policies that were destined to support the development of economy for the entire Indonesian people. General vision of Soeharto regarding “development,” as in most new industrialized people, was the economic welfare urged by the speed extraction of natural resources. However, in the practice, this agenda has become shoved and became less important compared to, and in the end threatened by, Soeharto’s hidden aim in holding power consolidation through political protection (patronage), where he was also used profitable resources in a tricky way. Despite the fact that Soeharto resigned from his position in 1998, Indonesian people and its environment are still suffering from the consequences of badness the government and law enforcement regarding state’s forest and financial policy.

This tradition has finaly led to cultural part preserved by national and regional leaders. The practice of forest distribution continualy and smartly executed as a media to silence the political rivals and paid off the loyalty of the allies. To be looking at Indonesian forestry, was to be looking at the metamorphosis of bankruptcy, source of conflicts and the preservation of exploitation.

At the beginning of the republic, forest has held important role. Its position as the supporting factor of national economy at the time was given it a second rank after oil. Forest has also functioned as political gift of the government, up until this very moment, to guarantee the loyalty of its supporters. One regency in Riau has precisely divided the forest as an area of wood extraction for the winner party of election.

At the era of colonization and up until now, forest was valued from the price of woods that grew upon it. The authority of a Regent could be withdrawn by the Netherland if the area administered under his authority consisted of forest (read: wood). Otherwise, the authority could also be returned if there were no longer woods existed in the forest. At that moment, forest gave double contribution, as wood provider for trading comodity, fuel (read: wood) and as raw material regarding the construction of ships, also as areas for other plants e.g castor oil plant , hemp, cotton plant, etc (Fernandes, 1946).

Boswezen, in his report in the year of 1940 – 1946 has stated that since 1942, the Government of Japan has put a lot of attention in the forest’s product as raw materials in term of fulfilling the necessity of war. This condition has incerased each year up to an exceeding number of limitations of maximum yearly fells, permitted by the regulation. And for the fact that the production considered more important, the reforesttation each year were postponed until the next upcoming years. .

Those woods were fell down and made as fuel for train, for the materials of ship’s construction and other military necessity (land and sea). For firewood, Japan even placed down specific Japanese employee to guarantee the supply of firewood. In 1944, Ringyoo Tyuoo Zimusyo provided teakwood for Nomura-Tohindo company in term of the construction of 500 motor boat in the size of 150 to 250 ton.

Between 1939 – 1945, approximately 4.761.906 meter cubic of woods produced from the felling down in all over Java and Madura. Meanwhile in Sumatera, more than 730.000 meter cubic of woods were produced at the same medio. This was not including the woods produced from the people’s fell down .

In the era of Liberal Democracy (1950 – 1959), management and forest concession were returned to the Government of Indonesia. That was not a simple job, remembering that the forest in Java and a small numbers of forests in Sumatera and the tools of management have suffered some damages. Most of them no longer have clear borders. Inventary process of forest was required in term of making the plan of production, however it was once again posponed remembering extraordinary activities in arranging the organizational setting of Bureau of Forestry.

Soon after the Bureau of Forestry reconsoled in 1951, the production of forest (read: wood) was directly pushed until it reached the number of 432.179 meter cubic. This number has equal the production in the era of colonialization in 1940 (551.854 meter cubic). It was assumed that approximately 400.000 ha of protected forest as an area of water system in Java Island has been damaged. As in the era of war, the level of production was not estimating the forest’s capability to produce.

In 1950 – 1956, with the help of Economic Cooperation Administration (ECA) and Export Import Bank (Exim Bank), the Government, Bureau of Forestry to be exact, established 6 sawmills in Brumbung, Bojonegoro, Saradan, Madiun and Benculuk. Furthermore, with the same funding sources, it added the establishment of sawmills in Samarinda and two more in Balikpapan . Soon, the production of forest recovered and even has approached the production in the year of 1938 (war times), even though the reforestation was only 11% completed (Bureau of Forestry, 1956).

From the point of view of income, between the year of 1950 – 1956, this sector has suffered some loss approximately Rp.58 million each year. As a comparison, the price of rice per litre was 50 cent at the time being, the price of gold per gram was Rp 4,-. Not until 1957 – 1959 this sector has contributed Rp. 75 million per year. It should be noted that the development estimation of forestry sector was always subsidize by Indonesian Estimation of Welfare Plan, approximately in the amount of Rp.45 million per year since 1950 up until 1959.

In 1956, the Bureau of Forestry further suggested to systematically change the order of natural forest by plant the forest with high economical price of woods. This idea further attached in Five Year Development Plan of 1056 – 1960 with 300 million rupiah in expense. By making the plan of ordering the industrial forest, hopefully someday this industry could grow and developed in term of fulfilling the people’s necessity.

The plan of forestry development was basically destinated to fulfill the necessity of woods in a large number of industries that were already existed in Indonesia in 1955 possessed:

1. Machinery Sawmill, 284 pieces with capacity of production 491.000 meter cubic of woods per year and employed 11.000 labours,
2. Hand Sawmill that processed 3 million meter cubic of woods per year with 50.000 labours,
3. Fiberboard in Banyuwangi with capacity 1500 ton per year,
4. Plywood and veeneer in North Sumatera and Lampung that produced 270.000 cases per year,
5. Nine factories of wood conservation with capacity of production 90.000 meter cubic of woods per year,
6. Factory of pencils in Jakarta with capacity of production 39.000 gross per year,
7. Six factories of matches with capacity of production 187 million of boxes per year,
8. Two factories of paper in Padalarang and Leces with capacity of production 7.000 ton per year .

Up until 1962, the reserve of woods gained from forestry sector has reached US$ 131.366. This number would even be higher number (possibly would reach US$ 850.000) if the better facility of shipping was provided. The reserve of woods has increased to US$ 250.507 in the next cemester.

Thus, the rich forest was exploited in term of pushing state’s income to the limit. As a newborn country, this was however acceptable. The lack of infrastructures to develop the downstream industry has urged Indonesia to extract forest resources and to engage trading in the form of raw material. The one thing that was left unsaid in the history was the taking over of people’s land in Java, East Kalimantan, Lampung and various other places in Indonesia without any significant compensation.

In the existing historical notes, the conflict provoked by the taking over of forest by the government took place in Padalarang in 1742, dominated by the Dutch at the moment. Angry citizens further chose to emigrate to Middle Java and part of them chose to run off to the forest to build new housing areas .

Forest as a tool of political consolidation was not a new issue. The Dutch has used this politic long way before. If in the era of Mataram Kingdom forest was made for the tool of political consolidation for its function as hunted areas, kelangenan King and Regent, then in the era of colonization, forest was made as a tool for the fact that woods not only considered profitable for trading also the fact that woods could be used for raw material in constructing war ships and merchant ships. The concept that the Creator was only bestowed the forest only to the chosen groups was accepted by the Javanese people . The Regent further gave units of forest to the chief of villages that were considered loyal to him, to be managed. The system of one stick for ten percent was continualy applied up to the moment of the birth of this state. Many of these chief of villages were practicing corruption by reporting smaller amount of the felling down woods.

In the era of Soeharto, the same issue had hapenned. Wood rich forest in five big island in Indonesia was made to political consolidation tool through economical patronage. The validation of Act of Forestry Principal Regulation, Foreign Capital Investment and Domestic Capital Investment were important indications of the forestry sector’s central role, not only for the sake of the state but also in term of assuring the loyalty of political and military groups. Approximately 4,230 million hectares of forest were dominated by family of Soeharto.

Tabel 2 Perkebunan dan HTI milik keluarga Soeharto

Table 3 Forest Concession owned by Soeharto Family

Began at the 60s through the permission from Forest Concession Right, this sector has continualy wriggled. In 1962, the capacity of wood processing industry has reached 4,294 million meter cubic per year plus 414.000 meter cubic of firewood , and covered the areas of concession in the amount of 1.3 million of hectares in Java, Sumatera and Kalimantan .

In 1963, the capacity of production was constantly pushed until it reached 6.823 million meter cubic per year. One of the reason of this escalation was the existence of cooperation regarding the Forestry Development in East Kalimantan with the Government of Japan a year before. The foreign exchange obtained from the export in this sector has constantly increased. From US$ 347 thousand in 1962, increased to US$ 640 thousand in the next year. In 1963, the foreign exchange stock of the export from forestry sector has reached US$ 775 thousand .

Act regarding Forestry Principal Regulation was issued in 1967. It gave permanent legal basis of woods. Two years after the issuance of the relevant regulation, many large concession were given the right to manage the forest in the periode of 20 years. The export of log wood then increased dramaticaly in the 1970s that further produced foreign exchange to be made as the capital of development of many business kingdoms emerged in Indonesia and provide fields of work.


The forestry industry was the golden boy of Indonesian economy. Nobody could ever deny that. From the forcing of production without any previous inventory in the beginning of independence, reforestation loan with zero percent interest, construction of new factory of pulp without any previous forest of crops and to the latest policy: the abolishment of auction system that was believed by various parties as one of the tools to grant the forest concession only to parties who were considered capable and competent. Surely there were many justifications could be given to justify all of that conditions. However, it would turn the logics up side down and it would be naive if the Indonesian people were forced to accept those various justifications.

It was very regretted before that various justifications and billions of foreign exchange obtained from this sector has further made the Government closed their eyes on various anomalies that took places. Soon the forestry sector has become one sector that has important role in the crushing of economy, ecology and social-culture.

In the aspect of economy, this sector has contributed a large amount of debt that was supposed to be paid by the government. It was a very high amount; it has reached Rp. 21.9 billion from approximately 120 forestry companies. More than half of them were processing industries that do not possesed concession. This debt was the debt of private forestry sector burden to the government.

Through banking rehabilitation process supported with fund from IMF, World Bank, and Consultative Group on Indonesia (CGI), debt of private sector including debt of forestry industry were burden to the government.

Before the financial crisis in Indonesia in 1997, local banks in Indonesia has provided more than 4 billion of US dollar in the form of loan for wood industry in Indonesia. Wood industry also accepted more than 7 billions of US dollars in the form of short term and long term loan from international monetary institute. Ten top local banks in Indonesia financing the wood industry. Those banks, including several Government banks that nowadays mergered as Mandiri Bank, Danamon Bank, National Public Bank (closed by the Government) and Indonesian International Bank. International Institutions, Credit Suissee First Boston, ING Bank N.V. and Credit Lyonnais from Singapore has also financing the expansion of wood industry in Indonesia (Setiono, 2005). Other than those institutions, up until 1999, four banks; Netherland-ABN AMRO Bank, ING Bank, Rabobank and Mees Pierson; have invested in developing crude palm plantation in the areas of 740.000 ha in Indonesia (Wakker dkk. 2000).

Since the beginning of 1990s, international private monetary institution has also hold an important role in facilitating the very fast expansion from the industry of pulp and paper in Indonesia. These institutions were responsible in distributing more than 12 billion US dollar to those industries up until 1999 (Barr 2001). Also with support from these monetary institutions, the forestry industry including the pulp and paper industry have obtained foreign exchange in the amount of 6 billion US dollar to 9 billion US dollar per year .

We could feel the impact at the moment. The capacity of production has flew over the top and could not be accomodated by the existing natural forest and HTI. The choice of SBY-JK’s policy as a response to this matter with revitalization approach has also added the chaos in the list of policy in forestry sector.

Revitalization policy – supplying of raw material could be seen in the plan of Forestry Department in the year of 2005 when the target was to expand the 5 million of hectares of HTI. The strange thing was that the Government felt nothing was wrong with the construction of 2 new industries of pulp in South Kalimantan by United Fibre System (UFS) and in South Kalimantan by Korindo Group. Do not forget to mention the plan of investors from Malaysia and India that would build factories in West Kalimantan, and all of those plan were adding the number of demand in the forestry sector and created the industry as the first step without developing the previously plantation.

The establishing of Restructuring Body to handle the chaos in forestry industry was not as good as the name sounded. Other than the fact that there was no obligation in the regional level to submit the company name and concession issued by the region, this body, that was under the authority of Forestry Department, was intended to be passive and waiting for the ball. Whereas, from the beginning, the establishing of Restructuring Body basicaly was an effort in responsing the deforestation process happening in many regions as an impact of delegating the authority to the Governor and Regent to issue IPK.

Back in the days, since the year of 2000, almost the entire function of government was transfered to regency, exceeding the authority of province as one way to eliminate the fear on the emerge of separatism. The central government was only responsible on the matter of defence and security plus national planning and making use of natural resources. Meanwhile, the responsibility of agriculture, industry and trade, labours have been delegated to 360 Regencies (the amount of Regencies in the year of 2000). This action has positively influenced the political climate in Indonesia.

However, the regional government did not possesed sufficient estimation to manage its government. Central government further issued regulation that permitted regency to issue logging permit upon an area of 100 hectares that was previously pointed to help the poor living in the surrounding of forest to develop the subsustence agriculture with capital from the logging.

It was a pity that this type of clear logging did not obligate the concession holder to hold reforestation and only valid for one year (CGI 2003). However, the ambition of regional government plus the chaotic and inconsistency of autonomy regulation, plus the regional euphoria and the necessity of fulfillment of regional estimation has urged the regional government to issue chaotic large scale logging permission with large scale concession issued by central government. In 2002, more than 500 regulations in forestry sector were in chaos.

Up until this moment, decentralization in fact has contributed the unbalanced power between national and local level. In the political behaviour in the regional level was only a reincarnation and colution previously held by Soeharto. All of a sudden, decentralization has created a number of small Soeharto, other than the high increase of corruption practices. In 2002, the government issued Government’s Regulation No. 34/2002 pointed to decrease the number of deforestation and block the issuance of permission of concession by regional government. This regulation has all at once stated that concession issued by the regency since 2002 has become illegal and have to be withdrawn. It could be seen that central government has ran out of strategies to enforce the law while police and military officers received bribes from the actor of the logging or actively became a part of the illegal logging itself .

The issue was getting more complicated when both of the government level felt entitled to issue the permission. The lack of definite regulation regarding this matter, that would probably solve the problem, has made the cases were handled in the field. The number of deforestation further increased drasticaly without any further efforts to find the root of the problem. One forestry industry by one has beginning to tumble down for the lack of legal raw materials.

FAO claimed that the forest cover has decreased from 74% to 56% in a period of 30-40 years . In 1950 to 1985 the damage has reached 900 thousand of hectares per year. This number has highly increased in 1985 – 1993, where the number of damage has reached 5,7 million of hectares per year. In the period of 1997/1998, the number of damage has decreased to 1,7 million of hectares. Although the reason of the decreasing number of damage was still a mistery, however a number of person who cares about the forest have assumed that the political chaos and the drastic increase of foreign exchange were the reasons of the decrease of forestry activities. At the time being, the number of deforestation was not come from the conversion, but from the practice of illegal logging and a number of landclearing in the forestry concession in the previous year.

In 2000 - 2004, the damage number has increased. Planology Body of Forestry Department assumed that 3,4 million hectares of forest were damaged each year. In 2005 and 2006 , the number of damage has once again decreased to 2,7 – 2,8 million of hectares per year. The causing factor was not only the legal or illegal logging in term of responsing the industry, but also the emerged of crude palm plantation .

Table 4 Indonesia Deforestation Speed 1950 - 2006

In 2003, forestry industry has experienced deficit down to 63 percent. In 2006, the natural forest and HTI added with logging from the expansion of plantation could only fulfilled 48,62 percent of the necessity. The remainder in the amount of 51 percent was fulfilled from illegal logging.

Table 5 Supply and needs of Industrial and Indonesia People

if the issue of this large gap could not be repaired from here and now, it was predicted that in 2020, Indonesian natural forest would be annihilated except for protected forest and conservation areas. This issue would be a great influence to several industries existed in Indonesia. Ten years from now, approximately 2/3 of forestry industry would colaps and around 1.982 million of head of families working as labours shall lose their jobs. Indonesian natural forest are marching to the mass suicide.