Indonesia must protect its forests, environmentalists say

Photo: Reuters

Indonesia is turning a blind eye to powerful businessmen smuggling rare timber to China despite its pledges to crack down on illegal logging and preserve its forests, environmentalists said Thursday. 


An undercover probe by the independent Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) and local group Telapak found rampant smuggling of merbau, a valuable hardwood found mainly in Papua.

The probe tracked the illicit trade from the forests to the ships where the wood was being illegally exported with the aid of corrupt officials.

But complaints to authorities concerning the two alleged kingpins in the trade had come to nothing, the groups concluded in a report.

“The report show that despite the Indonesian government's programme against illegal logging there is still a hardcore of loggers who are able to carry out their business,” EIA campaign director Julian Newman told RFI.

"While the huge quantity of illegal timber flowing from Indonesia during the first half of the decade has declined, effective law enforcement against those responsible - the financiers, company bosses and corrupt officials - has been woefully inadequate," he said.

Environmental groups have called on Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to make good on his promise to crack down on what he calls the "logging mafia” and is accused of destroying much of the country's pristine forests.

Indonesia is one of the world's biggest emitters of greenhouse gases blamed for global warming, mainly through deforestation.

Yudhoyono has pledged to slash its emissions by more than 40 per cent over 2005 levels by 2020 provided that foreign donors invest sufficient funds in the country for forest preservation.


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