Asia-Pacific forests in crisis, Indonesian Government must act to eradicate illegal logging

Feature story - March 1, 2004
As the ongoing assault on the Paradise Forests of the Asia Pacific continues, Greenpeace today presented a dossier of their findings from a three week presence on the coast of Central Kalimantan with their ship the Rainbow Warrior. The expose includes the names of 55 suspected ships, tugs and barges, involved in the smuggling of timber and information regarding the time and nature of their cargoes.

Greenpeace has delivered evidence of a huge trade in illegally sourced timber in Central Kalimantan. In the area investigated, where there are no active concessions, vast quantities of timber are still being harvested. The activities of the Rainbow Warrior in the last month have brought international media attention to the problem. Despite this exposure key authorities have still not taken any decisive steps to tackle the issues.

The Navy responded last week to calls from Greenpeace to the Ministry of Forestry to act. But the evidence of the illegal trade in the Lamandau and Kumai Rivers remain in the jurisdiction of the police force. Greenpeace delivered an opportunity for the police to enforce the law by blockading the flitch (square log) and log trade for several days.

"We have called on the Government to take action, and at the same time put ourselves at considerable risk," said Greenpeace consultant Faith Doherty. "The Ministry of Forestry showed political will in its order to expel the Ha Tinh 06, a state owned Vietnamese vessel. But they have not gone far enough. We have contacted President Megawati and urged her to ensure that the police force move to stop the trade in illegally sourced timber."

Ade Fadli, WALHI/Friends of the Earth Indonesia campaigner said, "the Indonesian Government should immediately enforce the law based on evidence found on the ground, and they should also apply logging moratorium and restructure the Indonesian forestry industry. Moreover, wood consumer countries should ban and sanction companies that import wood stolen from indigenous people's areas and products of destructive logging, whether they're legally or illegally logged."

Hapsoro, Director of Telapak said, "we're demanding that the Indonesian government act seriously in making sure that the law is enforced in Kumai and Lamandau because all the evidence is right in front of them. If authorities fail to do this then we can assume that laws cannot be enforced in other places in Indonesia."

Togu Manurung, Director of Forest Watch Indonesia said, "the deforestation rate in Indonesia has increased overtime. It is now estimated to be over 3.8 million hectares per annum. Illegal logging and illegal log smuggling is rampant despite wide coverage in the media. The underlying cause is the same: corruption. There is still no proper enforcement, no real strong political will from the government to solve the problem. We're facing total forest destruction, and lots of disasters caused by this. This will be very costly for Indonesia."

About 90% of all logging in Indonesia is totally illegal. Important markets such as China, the EU and the USA import illegally sourced rainforest timber. Producer countries as Papua New Guinea and Indonesia are being logged illegally because of the demand for timber overseas and the lack of proper enforcement of national forestry legislation.

"The crisis in the Paradise Forests of the Asia-Pacific is deepening" said Tim Birch of Greenpeace International. "The Indonesian Government recently attended the UN Summit of Life on Earth in Malaysia where it was agreed that urgent action was needed to prevent many of the planet's plants and animals heading to extinction. They now have a chance to take decisive action based on the evidence provided by Greenpeace to stop the illegal destruction of their forests. This problem is also being driven by the demand of the global market. Greenpeace will be hunting down companies in the market place who are buying this illegal timber and force them to stop doing this. We will show them that this is bad for their business." (1)

Note to the Editors

(1) Greenpeace last year succeeded in getting 3 major UK companies to cancel their contracts with Indonesian plywood suppliers including Barito Pacific. These contracts were worth millions of UK pounds. UK companies that cancelled contracts included builders merchants Travis Perkins, Jewson's and Finn Forest.