Berichte

Forests in Papua: Data and Facts

26th January 2008

by Marianne Klute, Watch Indonesia!

Contribution to the Forest Conference of the West Papua Network in Witten

forest papua

Forest in Papua

photo: Basilisa Dengen

„The last frontier“ – that’s what the environmental organisation Telapak calls the forests of Papua. During the few decades, forests have been clearcut everywhere in Indonesia. Papua is the last region with surviving large continuous forests. In recent years, however, Papua has become a hotspot for the timber industry. The forest has been vanishing rapidly, and police measures against illegal logging have had little effect. A new threat comes from plans by the Indonesian government to establish gigantic palm oil and pulpwood plantations in Papua. Measures to protect the forests are either facing opposition, or are ineffective.

Forests in Indonesia

South-east Asia is one of three important regions worldwide which still have large tropical rainforests, together with the Amazon Basin and Central Africa. In 1950, shortly after independence, 84% of Indonesia was still forested.

There are two key dates which mark step changes in the rate of deforestation: 1985 and 1997. By 1985, Indonesia had already lost one third of its forest. This year saw the beginning of a new type of large-scale industrial logging. The causes were new technology which allowed for the use of giant rainforest trees, international capital investment in the timber and pulp and paper industries, as well as Suharto’s children and cronies entering the business. This managed the destruction of 33% of the forest in just twelve years, with the help of large-scale concessions.

1997 entered Indonesia’s history books as the beginning of the Asian Financial Crisis, which sparked off the overthrow of Suharto, and the El- Niño year with its devastating impacts during the annual fires season. Deforestation has drastically increased after Suharto’s overthrow, as a consequence of decentralisation and the related lawlessness in the forest sector. Today, less than 20% of the country is forested.

 

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