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Down To Earth 32 - February 1997

Further evidence of the crisis in Indonesia's forestry industry is emerging as Ministry of Forestry, Djamaludin Suryohadikusomo, confirmed in October that 60 of the 90 private forest concessions to end in 1996 would not be renewed due to poor management. The 60 concessions will be handed over to the state owned forestry companies Inhutani I-V.

Given the appalling state of the forests left in the care of concessionaires, it is not surprising that the Inhutanis are taking over these concessions with reluctance. The private logging companies have stripped the most profitable virgin forests and ignored their reforestation obligations, despite forestry regulations requiring them to implement Indonesia's selective cutting and replanting policy (TPTI).

In Central Kalimantan, for example, PT Inhutani III is to develop 2.2 million hectares of timber estates in areas formerly (mis)managed by nineteen concessionaires. The companies, which will form joint ventures with Inhutani, include two of the best known logging concerns in Indonesia, Jayanti and Barito. The others include Tanjung Raya, Dwima, Antang Group and Bumi Indah Raya.

Of Inhutani III's new concessions, 7.6% are virgin forests; 75% are logged-over and 17.4% are grassland and scrub. Only 5.7% of the area handed over to Inhutani V was virgin forest. "If forests were managed in a sustainable manner, at least 43% should have been virgin forest", said its President.

According to Inhutani III's production director, the company will spend US$5.9 million to replant the forests this year, which will be taken from the reforestation funds, or from profits. "If the reforestation fund is difficult to tap, we'll use 20% of our profit," he said. Clearly, the reforestation fund, which consists of fees collected from timber concessionaires, is not easy to get hold of, despite its huge size – it reached Rp 880.7 billion last year up from Rp 806.6 billion in 1995. Perhaps this is because large amounts of the fund is being used for purposes other than reforestation - like the destruction of hundreds of thousands of hectares of swamp forest, also in Central Kalimantan, for the million-hectare rice fields project (see DtE 29/30 and 30).

Forestry analysts have questioned whether the state-owned companies will be able to manage the forests any better, especially as two of them have less than six years experience.

The Forestry Minister stated that 20 million hectares of Indonesia's forests were in a critical state and warned that the proportion could increase rapidly. However, he put most of the blame on shifting cultivators. At a conference on sustainable tropical forestry management, Forestry Department expert, Dr IGM Tantra, warned that Indonesia's natural forests could be completely logged out by 2030 unless the TPTI system was properly practised. [Source: Kompas 23/10/96; Jakarta Post 11/10/96 Jakarta Post 7/12/96, 13/1/97.]

Indonesia gets $42 million forestry grant from EU

Indonesia has received a 33 million ECU (US$ 42.3 million) grant from the European Union to start a programme in South and Central Kalimantan and to establish a Forest Liaison Bureau.

The grant was presented to Forestry Minister Djamaludin in December by EU Ambassador in Jakarta Klaus-Peter Schmallenbach, Swedish Ambassador Mikael Lindstrom and Finnish Ambassador Hannu Himanen.

The programme is supposed to help the government develop sustainable forest management and optimal utilisation of forest products. It is also supposed to involve local communities in South and Central Kalimantan, as well as local governments and the private sector.

Unfortunately, this community involvement seems to mean imposing changes on their agricultural practices. According to Schmallenbach, it is important to guide local communities in carrying out more productive planting techniques which take up less land and "less temptation for logging". "It is also important to educate the local communities to regard to forests as the most important asset not only for themselves but for their children and their children's children." This last statement would perhaps be more appropriately targeted at the government-approved timber concessionaires, for the devastation they cause in the forests and their total disregard for the welfare of future generations.

The current EU-Indonesia forest programme consists of five major projects, including a fire prevention and control project and the controversial Leuser National Park Development Programme. (Jakarta Post 14/12/96)