Forest Damage Kills All Life

By: Suwandi and Edi Dharma

Deforestation has threatened human life. This year a three day old baby died in Kulim Sub District, Tenayan Raya District, Pekanbaru. The infant’s death was due to forest and land fires which caused smog. Before dying, the newborn baby experienced shortness of breath, coughing and fever.

Clearing forests for plantations has reduced air quality. Poor air quality affects millions of people affected by acute respiratory inspection (ARI). Forest fires cause birth defects and Indonesia loses 7 percent of the forest or 1.4 million hectares annually. Deforestation also causes economic and ecological losses.

Forest fires make the rate of global climate change high. Then disrupt the economic and educational activities of Singapore and Malaysia. The government in Indonesia has not yet taken the problem of deforestation seriously. The government prefers investment despite sacrificing forests and livelihoods.

Minister of Environment and Forestry Siti Nurbaya Bakar claims deforestation in Indonesia continues to decline. Based on data from the National Forest Monitoring System (SIMONTANA) released in early 2019, it was revealed that deforestation in 2014-2015 was an area of ​​1.09 million hectares. This figure then dropped to 0.63 million hectares in the 2015-2016 period, and again dropped to 0.48 million hectares in the 2016-2017 period.

The Organization for Economic and Cooperation Development (OECD) revealed that Indonesia’s deforestation rate is still relatively high when compared to other countries. When compared internationally, Indonesia ranks second among countries with the fastest deforestation rates. First place is Brazil. Following under Indonesia are Myanmar, Nigeria, Tanzania, Paraguay, Zimbabwe, Congo, Argentina and Peru.

In addition, the OECD also noted the expansion of agricultural and timber plantations (both legal and non-legal) as long as it is a source of habitat loss. Land use change and changes account for half of the total greenhouse gas emissions. Draining and burning carbon-rich peatlands is the main driver of this problem. It is estimated that around 9 percent of bird species, 27 percent of mammals, and 3 percent of reptiles are threatened with extinction if deforestation continues.

The President of the Republic of Indonesia, Joko Widodo, acknowledged that Indonesia is the sixth largest contributor of carbon emissions in the world (Kompas, 2015). Data from WRI in 2012 stated that there were 1.98 billion tons of CO2 emissions each year. The forestry sector is the biggest contributor to carbon emissions released as a result of deforestation and forest degradation (UNDP, 2007). In 2011 the Government of Indonesia issued Presidential Regulation No. 61/2011 concerning the National Action Plan for Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions 2010-2020. Then also Indonesia ratified the Paris Agreement with Law No. 16 of 2016 concerning Ratification of the Paris Agreement to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Indonesia is committed to reducing emissions by 29% by its own efforts and to 41% if there is international cooperation from conditions without action (business as usual) in 2030, one of which is through the forestry and agriculture sectors.

Indonesia will not achieve its own emission reduction target without addressing deforestation and forest degradation. The facts show that the history of Indonesian forestry is nothing but the history of deforestation, from the past until now.

In the 1970s the FAO said the rate of deforestation in Indonesia reached 300 thousand hectare / year (FAO / WB, 1990). Then the 1990s deforestation rate increased to 1 million hectares / year (Sunderlin and Resosudarmo, 1997). Analysis of FWI and GFW in 2001 showed that the rate of deforestation continued to increase, to 2 million hectares / year in the 1996-2000 period. Subsequently it reached 1.5 million hectares / year in the period 2001-2010 and in 2009-2013 the rate was 1.1 million hectares / year (FWI, 2011 & 2014).

The latest study of FWI, although only photographed in 3 provinces, the deforestation rate is still relatively high, which is around 240 thousand hectares / year 2013-2016, an increase compared to the previous period (2009-2013), which is around 146 thousand hectares / year (FWI, 2014 ). When totaled, the natural forests in North Sumatra, East Kalimantan and North Maluku have been lost by 718 thousand hectares over three years.

Another analysis found that around 72% of deforestation occurring in these 3 provinces is located in areas that have been burdened with management permits. Activities within HPH concessions, HTI, oil palm plantations and mining are direct causes of deforestation.

The increase in the rate of deforestation in the provinces of North Maluku and East Kalimantan increased significantly, compared to what happened in North Sumatra. In North Maluku, the increase in the rate of deforestation even more than doubled compared to the previous period, from 25 thousand hectares / year to 52 thousand hectares / year. This is also the case with East Kalimantan, where deforestation rates have nearly doubled from the previous period, from 84 thousand hectares / year in 2013 to 157 thousand hectares / year in 2016.

Findings in North Maluku Province show that the poor performance of HPH (IUPHHK-HA) is one of the direct causes of loss of natural forests. Deforestation within mining concessions and oil palm plantations is also the largest contributor to deforestation in the province. Whereas in North Sumatra Province the causes of deforestation were HTI and the expansion of oil palm plantations within HPH concessions.

The high level of deforestation by HTI activities is due to land clearing activities or land clearing in the initial stages of preparing plantation forest land. In East Kalimantan the conversion of natural forests to oil palm plantations is indicated to still be the main contributor to deforestation, in addition to the expansion of mining concessions.

The facts of deforestation challenge the Indonesian Government’s support for the people who live in and around the forest. Including realizing the seriousness of the Government of Indonesia in reducing emissions, protecting the environment, preventing disasters, and conserving natural resources. The facts show that 50% of all land in North Sumatra, East Kalimantan and North Maluku has been controlled by concession holders. Only 4% of the land area whose control and use is in the hands of the community in various forms of social forestry and customary forest programs. The fact also shows that forest degradation and deforestation in these provinces have caused environmental disasters: floods, landslides, drought and loss of protected wildlife habitats.

Finally, a final reflection is that currently the tendency to lose natural forests has shifted to eastern Indonesia. This is because the natural forests on the island of Sumatra and the island of Borneo are already getting less. Whereas natural forests in eastern Indonesia are mostly located on the coast and small islands, which if the forests are lost, the impact will be far greater if compared to the loss of forests on large islands. Sinking of islands, seawater intrusion, and loss of livelihoods of coastal communities and small islands in eastern Indonesia are now a threat. (*)

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