M. Taufiqurrahman, Jakarta – The Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam provincial administration is set to declare a moratorium on the logging of forested regions in the province. Aceh governor Irwandi Yusuf said Thursday that both legal and illegal logging had caused severe environmental destruction in the province, which posed a threat to the lives of the people there.
"I have seen the severity of environmental destruction as a result of both legal and illegal logging. Soon we will declare a moratorium on it," Irwandi told a press conference at the State Palace.
Irwandi and his deputy, M. Nazar, met President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to present a progress report of their first month in office. In the meeting with the President, Irwandi also gave a progress report on his programs, which among other issues addressed the fight against corruption and bureaucratic reform.
Irwandi, a former Free Aceh Movement (GAM) rebel who scored a surprise win in a direct gubernatorial election late last year, said that flooding in Aceh Tamiang in December last year, which killed more than 70 people, provided evidence of environmental degradation there.
As part of further conservation efforts, Irwandi said that a government-sanctioned body had been created to manage the ecosystem in the highly biologically diverse region of Leuser. "I have issued a regulation to appoint those who will sit in the body," Irwandi said.
Despite these moves, however, post-tsunami reconstruction efforts and the advent of peace in Aceh have placed a large tropical reserve in the province in jeopardy.
An Associated Press report last year said that former Aceh rebels traded their guns for chain saws and were cashing in on a huge demand for logs in Aceh's post-tsunami reconstruction.
Aceh was largely environmentally protected during a decade-long separatist insurgency, with logging activities primarily limited to rebels and rogue elements within the military. But a peace deal signed between the central government and GAM in 2005 opened up previously inaccessible virgin forestlands.
Logging now occurs in both Leuser and Ulu Masen, which have some of the richest rainforest lands in Southeast Asia and are home to endangered rhinos, elephants, tigers and orangutans.
The Leuser International Foundation said in its report last year that at least 120,000 metric tons of illegal Leuser logs were trucked to the port city of Belawan in neighboring North Sumatra in 2005.
Some of the logs were later shipped to the tsunami-hit coast and sold to aid groups there, the report said. Aceh reconstruction requires an estimated 400,000 cubic meters of lumber.