News / Asia

Indonesia Still Struggling to Manage Natural Rainforests

FILE - An aerial view of parts of a forest which has been burnt during haze in Indonesia's Riau province.
FILE - An aerial view of parts of a forest which has been burnt during haze in Indonesia's Riau province.
Kate Lamb
Indonesia is home to one of the largest areas of tropical rainforest in the world - and has one of the highest rates of deforestation. Now, signs of progress are being seen in efforts to balance economic growth with conservation of the natural rainforests.
 
During recent decades, millions of hectares of Indonesian forest have been cleared through illegal logging and the creation of plantations for the timber, pulp and paper, and palm oil industries.
 
In 2010, the governments of Norway and Indonesia signed a billion-dollar deal to impose a moratorium on the clearance of peatland and natural forest. The deal was seen as a way to help Indonesia meet its ambitious goal of cutting carbon emissions by 26 percent by 2020.
 
But despite the ban, natural forests have continued to be cleared for industry, in part due to weak governance and rampant corruption.
 
For years scientists and environmentalists have struggled to convince rural Indonesians that protecting forests is in their long-term interests.
 
Scientist Eric Meijaards said the message is now starting to penetrate as people realize there are huge economic costs to destroying the forest.
 
“Large groups of people are starting to work out that the benefits that are being offered, the increased employment opportunities, infrastructure, do not outweigh the costs. Those people are saying that very clearly and this is something the government could use as input,” said Meijaard.
 
Meijaard has spent years mapping people’s perceptions about forest destruction on the island of Kalimantan.
 
Several large companies operating in the oil palm and pulp and paper industries in Indonesia have recently pledged commitments to “zero deforestation,” while the government is also starting to prosecute companies that illegally slash and burn.
 
Fadhil Hasan, the executive director of the Indonesian Palm Oil Association, said that although sustainability won’t happen overnight, the palm oil industry is heading in the right direction.
 
For a start, the Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil Standard, or ISPO, will become mandatory by the end of this year.
 
“In 2011, the Indonesian government itself launched the sustainable palm oil [standard] and then hopefully in 2014 all oil palm plantations operating in Indonesia have been certified by ISPO, for sustainable palm oil. So looking forward we are improving,” said Hasan.
 
Indonesia is the world’s largest producer of palm oil, which is widely used in consumer goods such as soap and lipstick, and the industry employs more than five million people here.
 
While the Indonesian palm oil association claims that only a small percentage of plantations are developed in natural forests, indigenous groups argue that forest clearance is coming at their expense.
 
Last May, Indonesia's constitutional court issued a landmark ruling declaring government ownership of customary forests null and void.
 
Rukka Sombolinggi from the Indigenous Peoples' Alliance of the Archipelago said the government been slow to implement the court ruling.
 
As the complicated process to map customary forest gets underway, the government, she said, continues to grant contracts in protected forest areas.
 
“The problem now is that because we don’t have our rights specifically recognized and protected, it is very easy for the government to give permits and licenses to the private sector, private companies, without considering actually there are indigenous people living in this area,” said Sombolinggi.
 
As a result of significant forest clearance, Indonesia is the third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases worldwide, behind China and the United States.

You May Like

Could Nemtsov Threaten Putin in Death as in Life?

Dynamic and debonair opposition leader had supported liberal economic reforms, criticized Russian president's aggression in Ukraine More

Oil Smuggling Highlights Challenges in Shutting Down IS Finances

Pentagon spokesman says Islamic State 'certainly continues to get revenue from the oil industry black market' but that airstrikes have made a dent More

India Focuses on Infrastructure, Investment to Propel Economy

Government expects economy to grow at 8 to 8.5 percent in next fiscal year More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More