Saving Indonesia’s Forests

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Saving Indonesia’s Forests

Despite recent signs of modest progress, the fight to save Indonesia’s natural forests is far from being won.

Saving Indonesia’s Forests
Credit: KatePhotographer,

The latest figures show that Indonesia’s loss of natural forests has slowed to a decade low – a dramatic change in direction for a country that overtook Brazil as having the world’s highest rate of primary forest loss in 2011, almost doubling the level of Amazon decline (which is four times the size of the archipelago’s rainforests) in 2012. Between 2000 and 2012, Indonesia lost more than 6 million hectares of primary, or old-growth, forest – an area almost the size of Sri Lanka, or roughly comparable to 6 million soccer fields. That is a daily average of about 1370 hectares and an hourly average of 57 hectares.

And while it is too soon to say what the 2013 decline means exactly, now seems an ideal time to reflect on the state of Indonesia’s forestry sector, where unlawful logging by unscrupulous companies and the collusion of local authorities in dishing out dodgy permits continues to undermine the fight against deforestation. Meanwhile, it appears that a significant chunk of raw materials consumed by large mills is still sourced from tropical forests, both legally and illegally.

A new report by the Anti Forest-Mafia Coalition and Forest Trends estimates that more than 30 percent of wood used by Indonesia’s industrial forest sector “stems from the unreported clear-cutting of natural forests and other illegal sources instead of legal tree plantations and well-managed logging concessions.”

It found the material used by large mills (those which process more than 6,000 cubic meters of wood per year) exceeded the legal supply by the equivalent of 20 million cubic meters – enough to fill 1.5 million logging trucks. This figure was found by comparing the supply of wood as recorded by the Ministry of Forestry (MoF) against the amount industry reported using. Statistics on wood passing through smaller mills are not fully recorded, indicating the volume of illegal wood consumed may be higher. Although it should be stated that with uncertainty surrounding official forestry data in Indonesia, all statistics are shaky and should only be viewed as a guide.

While the source of this illegal wood is unclear the report notes it likely comes from trees harvested during forest clearance for new palm oil and timber plantations.