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International agencies furthering Aceh deforestation: Greenomics

Jakarta Post - May 10, 2007

Ridwan Max Sijabat, Jakarta – Post-tsunami reconstruction works in Aceh are contributing to deforestation as reconstruction agencies use timber from illegal logging activities, an environmental organization has alleged.

Local environmental group Greenomics Indonesia accused the government-backed Aceh-Nias Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Agency (BRR) and international agencies of using illegal logs.

Greenomics based its accusation on a field survey conducted in April which found reconstruction works in Aceh had used some 850,000 cubic meters of illegal logs. International agencies have used 48 percent of Aceh's illegal logs, while BRR has used 42 percent.

"The remaining 10 percent have been used by disaster victims to repair their damaged houses," Greenomics coordinator Vanda Meutia told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday.

Vanda added that the survey also found that 85 percent of logs found in Aceh's markets were suspected of being illegally logged in forests in northern Sumatra, especially from the provinces of North Sumatra and Riau.

"The survey shows international agencies, in the name of reconstruction, have occupied the highest rank in the use of illegal logs in Aceh. "Greenpeace should also submit reports on the international agencies' 'performance' to the Guinness Book of World Records," she said.

In reaction to global warming and climate change, Greenpeace has successfully applied to the Guinness Book of World Records to have Indonesia included as having the world's highest annual rate of deforestation between 2000-2005. This citation will be included in the 2008 edition of the book to be published in September.

Vanda criticized Greenpeace for its move, saying international agencies that have been intensively campaigning for global reforestation and sustainable development were also involved in deforestation in tropical countries such as Indonesia.

She also said industrialized countries should be held responsible for global warming and climate changes because they were greenhouse emitters. "The high demand for logs in their markets has indirectly contributed to rampant illegal logging in Indonesia," she added.

Meanwhile, BRR spokesperson Mirza Keumala denied the agency was using illegal logs for construction works both in Aceh and in Nias, insisting BRR was committed to forest preservation in Aceh.

"The Aceh provincial administration should take account of the illegal logging," he said. "If the reconstruction work is using illegal logs, it must be (the fault of) contractors, which are BRR's partners in the reconstruction project. BRR has never tolerated any use of illegal logs in reconstruction works."

Mirza called on local authorities, especially the local police and forestry offices, to enhance their supervision of Aceh's forests to eliminate illegal logging activities there.