Indonesia: Rapid deforestation taking place in Jambi

Jon Afrizal The Jakarta Post 11 Jun 16;

An area of forest the size of eight soccer fields is lost every hour in Jambi, Sumatra, leaving forests in the province in a critical condition, according to a conservation organization.

Today, there are only about 1 million hectares of forest left in Jambi, or one-fifth of the province’s total area of about 50,000 square kilometers.

“The size of forest loss in Jambi is quite big and the province is struggling to preserve its remaining forests,” Rudi Syaf, chairman of the Indonesian Conservation Community (KKI Warsi), said recently.

The conservation group said based on satellite imaging, Jambi had lost up to 189,125 hectares of forest due to deforestation from 2012 to 2016. A 2012 survey showed that total forested areas in Jambi constituted around 1.16 million hectares. However, in 2016, that figure has dropped to 970,434 hectares.

Rudi said the loss of forests was due to human activity, including the issuance of industrial forest permits (HTI) for concession areas and legal and illegal mining activities.

“Deforestation has even reached into protected areas,” he said.

The most severe deforestation has been recorded in the south of the Bukit Tigapuluh National Park (TNBD), where land clearing activities are carried out by a number of HTI companies, including Lestari Asri Jaya and Wana Mukti Wisesa, and Mugitriman Internasional and Malacca Agro Perkasa in Bungo regency, as well as in Merangin regency, where the Hijau Arta Nusa and Jebus Maju HTI companies operate.

Field observations have also detected forest loss as a result of illegal land clearing activities carried out by other parties. Massive land clearing is also carried out in Tebo regency, especially after the opening of an access road in a forested area linking a plantation company owned by Sinar Mas with its timber processing plant in Tebing Tinggi, West Tanjung Jabung.

The deforestation is also caused by the presence of legal and illegal mines in forested areas. Mining activities in forested areas permitted by the Environment and Forestry Ministry between 2013 and 2015 reached 84,000 hectares, while other forested areas were cleared for illegal mining.

Monitoring at the Batang Tabir river stream in Merangin regency found a large forested area being opened up by illegal gold mining companies.

“Forest clearance for the illegal mines has even reached into the Kerinci Seblat National Park,” said Rudi.

He added that forest degradation and deforestation had caused additional ecological disasters in Jambi in recent years, such as the flash floods that hit a number of areas in Merangin, Bungo and Sarolangun regencies this year.

“This shows that the destruction of forests has caused the loss of a balanced ecosystem and this poses a danger to the survival of human beings, especially residents living around forests that are being demolished,” said Rudi.

He added that the government was not serious about improving forest management to save forests.

Based on analysis conducted in areas with natural forests that are densely covered, they should be maintained in order to preserve the ecosystem.

“So, the most important thing right now is the work of the government to improve the forest management of plantation companies,” he said.

As for illegal mining, Rudi added, the government should immediately revise spatial planning and allocate mining areas for traditional gold miners.

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