Friday, April 21, 2006
  Invitation 1 (Edited)

Greenpeace's flagship Rainbow Warrior II is anchored at the Jakarta's Tanjung Priok Port until Monday and is open to the public from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday as part of its campaign to stop deforestation in Papua.

The ship arrived on Wednesday after completing a one-month trip through South Pacific waters, gathering evidence of illegal logging and land clearing in Indonesian Papua, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.

There is an interview in the Jakarta Post with the Greenpeace Southeast Asia executive director Emmy Hafild which highlights not only the rampant deforestation of Papua but also how this has further disenfranchised the indigenous population.

I have reproduced it in full because not only is it worth reading but also because the Post annoyingly recycles its URLs.

Why did Greenpeace specifically address the issue of protection of Papuan forests?

Papuan forests are one of seven of the largest remaining intact forests in the world besides those in Europe, Africa, North America, Patagonia, Latin America and Northern Asia. In terms of tropical forests, it is one of the few tropical forest areas left on the planet along with the Amazon in Brazil and the Congo in Africa.

Since the earth currently has very few intact forests -- only 10 percent of previously existing forest area remains -- the forests of Papua are becoming very important to the life of the planet.

Papuan forests possess enormous biodiversity. The forests are blessed with highly diverse and very unique flora and fauna, distinct from Asia and Australia. And the most important thing is, the forests in Papua have supported the lives of the Papuan people for a long time. Before modern development came to Papua, the people had relied on the forests for hundreds of years. We badly need to protect the forests for the sake of the Papuan people.

What do you think is the most serious and imminent threat that Papuan forests are facing?

The biggest threat of all is the logging concessions. I believe logging concessions are the pioneers of forest destruction. Learning from what happened in Borneo and Sumatra, logging concessions initiated the conversion of forests into roads and then the conversion of forests into oil palm plantations.

In Papua right now, almost 60 percent of the forests are controlled by concession holders. So, at the moment Papuan forests face the highest deforestation rate in the world.

(The government has granted logging concessions to 62 companies to log 11.6 million of the 39.7 million hectares of forests in Papua, with this year's harvest quota set at 800,000 cubic meters of timber.)

If the government wants to protect Indonesian forests, if it wants to stop illegal logging, they have to look into all logging companies that hold concessions, both big and small. Why? Because for us, they all operate illegally as they don't take into account the impact they have on the environment and the people in their operations. We also believe that rampant illegal logging in Papua is closely related to the large-scale concessions there.

What do you think the government should do?

If the government is serious - I think the forestry minister and the President are serious about protecting the environment - they have to suspend all logging concessions in Papua. Right now! The government is entitled to do that because we have compiled files that prove that companies that hold large-scale concessions have broken some of forestry regulations and destroyed the forests.

We have handed these files to the Forestry Ministry and the State Ministry for the Environment. It's the government's turn to do its job: It must halt the operations of all logging companies there.

(Forestry Minister Malem Sambat Kaban and State Minister for the Environment Rachmat Witoelar are scheduled to meet the crew of the Rainbow Warrior on Sunday.)

The second step is to review the forest policy in Papua, together with the Papuan people, to determine the objectives of forest management in Papua, with the aim to protect the remaining intact forests and improve the welfare of Papuans.

The government must take such measures because we have the moral obligation to ensure the nation's future generations can benefit from the abundant virgin forests we have right now. That is what sustainable development is all about.

At present, we are just taking from the forests for our own benefit. Not for the local people, not for the next generation.

Why should the government heed your suggestions?

First, the government will make the Papuan people happier. They are unhappy with logging concessions because they are not benefiting from them. They bear the brunt of logging activities, such as environment degradation which has resulted in floods and water shortages and also depleted sources of food.

If we can protect their forests and provide sustainable community-based logging activities there, the welfare of the local people will improve. That will surely make them happier. Once that happens, they will be happy to be part of Indonesia.

Will it help ease the tensions in Papua?

Well, it's not a panacea. The government, of course, has to address the issues of Freeport and political tension. But it's one of the solutions. I do believe it can contribute to solving the problems in Papua.

Indonesia sells China access to Papuan forests

Antara, the government news agency, published the following story on Tuesday. Presumably VP Jusuf Kalla will have signed this deal, amongst others, before he returns home from China on Sunday.

The Chinese state company, China Light, intends to invest US$1 billion to set up a wood processing company and an industrial forest estate (HTI) in Papua, Forestry Minister MS Kaban said on Tuesday.

The company would make the investment to help meet China`s demand for wood which was increasing particularly for construction of sports facilities for the Olympic Games which China is to host in the near future.

The Chinese company, called needed a total of 800,000 cubic meters of logs or equivalent to 400,000 cubic meters of processed wood up to 2008.

Since 2004, Papua and Irian Jaya Barat provinces have a quota of 1.2 million cubic meters of logs from natural forests.

The government currently has a stock of 300,000 cubic meters of logs procured from the seizures of illegal log activities last year.

The Forestry Ministry`s director general of forestry production development, Hadi S Pasaribu, said the remaining 500,000 cubic meters of logs could be bought from private forest concession companies operating in Papua.

I'm sure that Greenpeace has noted, with concern, the last paragraph.


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