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Rapid Deforestation a Serious Threat: Palemabang, Sumatra

The Palembang Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) has said that tropical forests in Sumatra are under extreme threat from illegal logging. Coordinator of WCS Muhammad Taupiq said that at least 500,000 of Sumatra’s 2.5 million hectares of tropical forest had been lost during the 1990-2000 period, or about 50,000 hectares per year.

Sumatra’s tropical forests include the 862,975-hectare Gunung Leuser National Park located in North Sumatra and Aceh, the 1.37-million hectare Kerinci Seblat National Park located in West Sumatra, Jambi, Bengkulu and South Sumatra, as well the 356,800-hectare Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park located in Bengkulu and Lampung according to Khairul Saleh.

“We predict that the deforestation will increase year by year if there is no serious action taken to overcome it. From our calculations, it is possible that deforestation will reach up to 70 percent in 2010. If so, we will face lots of natural disasters — not only in Sumatra, but also around the world,” Taupiq said.

He said illegal activities such as logging, burning and conversion were to blame and urged all institutions, especially the local and central governments, as well as businesses to seriously work to solve the problem.

The WCS and the South Sumatra Nature Lovers Forum, together with the Palembang municipal administration and South Sumatra provincial administration, recently arranged a campaign to protect forests in Palembang.

Taupiq said he hoped the campaign would be followed up with concrete action from all stakeholders in order to preserve Sumatra’s forests and its ecosystems. The campaign is also meant to prepare residents to face and overcome natural disasters.

Taupiq added that in South Sumatra alone, at least 600 hectares of the 12,700 that make up the Pantai Air Telang protected forest in Banyuasin regency would be converted for the construction of Tanjung Api-Api harbor.

He said he was concerned development would cause natural disasters in the region.
Head of the South Sumatra Forestry Agency Dody Supriadi said that the conversion of 600 hectares in Pantai Air Telang protected forest could not be considered destruction because it was aimed at meeting the public’s needs.

“Moreover, we are not constructing a harbor along the entire 600 hectares of the forest. We are just using part of the area, ” Dody added.

Based on South Sumatra provincial administration data, the extent of the protected area is 1.7 million hectares, with 500,000 hectares of protected forest, 700,000 hectares of conservation forest, 350,000 hectares of riverbanks and 150,000 hectares of reservoir sites.