Indonesian NGOs call to stop clearcutting natural forests in Sumatra

Posted on 27 July 2005

While the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry is reviewing the validity of Industrial Timber Plantation Licenses, a coalition of Sumatran NGOs call on companies using the license to immediately halt clearcutting natural forests.
Jakarta, Indonesia – A coalition of Sumatran environmental NGOs is calling on all companies that are clearcutting natural forests – particularly those based on industrial timber plantation licenses – to immediately issue a moratorium on all such operations.

The coalition, known as Eyes of the Forest – which consists of WWF-Indonesia, Jikalahari (Forest Rescue Network Riau), and Walhi Riau (Friends of the Earth's Indonesia office in Riau) – is also calling on the companies sourcing timber from such activities to immediately stop all deliveries. 

The Indonesian Ministry of Forestry is currently reviewing the validity of these licenses. Eyes on the Forest supports the legal review as a very significant step towards the conservation of some of the country’s remaining natural forests. Locally issued licenses have been used to clear large areas of natural forests in disregard of Ministry regulations that protect them. 
Eyes on the Forest found that 34 companies received licenses from heads of districts in Riau to clear 289,809ha of natural forest. Their customers are Riau’s two pulp and paper companies – Asia Pacific Resources International Holdings, Ltd. (APRIL) and Asia Pulp & Paper Co., Ltd. (APP).
The two giant mills have been a major threat to Riau’s forests which declined by 52 per cent (3,471,590ha) between 1982 and 2004. Riau’s forests are some of the most biodiverse in the world. They are home to the endangered Sumatran elephant and tiger. Both are dying as their forests disappear. 
“In May 2005, Eyes on the Forest investigators found APRIL sourcing timber from Kampar, Bukit Tigapuluh and Kerumutan forest blocks, and APP buying from Libo and Senepis blocks," said Zulfahmi, coordinator of Riau’s NGO network JIKALAHARI.
Eyes on the Forest fully supports the Forest Ministry's review of the licensing process. However, experience has shown that parties with vested interests may try to influence it.

Transparency International Indonesia just confirmed Riau’s capital Pekanbaru as one of the most corrupt cities in Indonesia. Eyes on the Forest therefore calls on all stakeholders to monitor the license review carefully and report any concerns on its website. 
"The review should be transparent and free from outside influence," said Rully Syumanda, Executive Director of WALHI Riau. "We hope that it will lead to the prosecution of all those who use illegal licenses in their logging operations and who buy illegally sourced timber."  
According to WWF, the review offers an opportunity to develop new concepts in prosecuting the investigators of illegal logging and taking the buyers to court. 
"It is not enough to convict using forestry laws alone," said Dr Mubariq Ahmad, Executive Director of WWF-Indonesia. "We need to bring multiple charges from the violation of forestry and tax laws to those targeting money laundering and corruption." 
• Eyes on the Forest voiced its support of MoF’s review of Industrial Timber Plantation Licenses during the launch of the Eyes on the Forest website in Jakarta.

• Eyes on the Forest investigators are monitoring logging and clear-cutting operations in Riau’s remaining eight major forest blocks. Their reports, EoF News, and many background materials are published on the website. WWF, Walhi, and JIKALAHARI invited local, national, and international media, NGOs, companies, governments and any other interested parties to use the Eyes on the Forest website as a source of information on forest conservation in Riau and on the protection of the rights of the local people who rely on the forest for their livelihoods.

* Indonesian Perception Corruption Index 2004, released by Transparency International Indonesia, ranked Pekanbaru, the capital of Riau Province, as the 6th most corrupted city of 22 cities surveyed in Indonesia. Pekanbaru was the worst city in terms of performance by local government, legislative, political parties, courts, judiciary, police, customs, tax services, and the military. 

For further information: 
Desmarita Murni, Communication Officer
Tel:+ 62-021-5761070 (ext 103)
Logging activities in Tesso Nilo, Sumatra, Indonesia.
© WWF / Jikkie Jonkman