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273,653 HA of rice field disappeared in past 16 years

Antara News - March 21, 1997

Jakarta – A total of 273,653 hectares of rice field disappeared between 1980 and 1996, with an average of 17,000 hectares lost everyyear.

Their disappearance is mainly due to the increasing need for land by people in the island of Java, State Minister for Agrarian Affairs, Soni Harsono, told the press after reporting the matter toPresident Soeharto at the presidential residence along JalanCendana, Thursday.

Harsono further said Java's forestland has shrunk by 200,000 hectares from 2.8 million hectares in 1980 to 2.6 million hectareslast year.

"We need to take measures to protect our forestland," he quoted the president as saying.

He added that according to the president, priority should be given to irrigated land.

Soeharto cited as an example that a building could be demolished if it is built over a paddy field converted without proper licenses.

Harsono also said that 1,119 families had been given certificates to cultivate 228 hectares of peat land in Central Kalimantan.

The certificates will be presented to the families by the headof state when he visits Central Kalimantan.