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

Israelis Quietly Expand Enclave in Palestinian District of Jerusalem

Estimated 500 settlers, armed or protected by paramilitary police, live in Silwan among 50,000 Palestinians More

Video US, Iran Face Similar Challenges in Syrian Fight Against IS

Both Washington, Tehran back fighters battling Islamic State militants in Iraq -- but in Syria they support opposing sides in country’s civil war More

China Boosts Efforts to Help Afghan, Regional Stability

Observers say China’s increased regional involvement are due to concerns that Afghan instability and the presence of anti-China militants in Pakistani border areas could fuel Xinjiang troubles More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Lawi
X
William Ide
October 20, 2014 10:23 AM
China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Nigeria Agrees to Cease-Fire With Boko Haram

Islamist militant group Boko Haram and the Nigerian government have agreed to a cease-fire. The Nigerian government issued an order Friday, telling all military chiefs "to comply with the cease-fire agreement in all theaters of operations. Why now and the significance of the agreement are questions on some people’s minds. VOA's Mariama Diallo reports.
Video

Video Kobani Fighting Sends 400,000 Refugees to Turkey

The offensive by Islamic State militants against the northern Syrian city of Kobani has caused hundreds of thousands of residents to flee to Turkey. They receive help from Turkish authorities and individuals, but say much more is needed. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from the town of Suruc a few kilometers from the border.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Syrian Defector Leaks Shocking Photos of Torture Victims

Shocking photographs purporting to show Syrian torture victims are on display at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. The museum says the graphic images are among thousands of photographs recently smuggled out of Syria by a military policeman-turned-defector. As VOA reporter Julie Taboh reports, the museum says the photos provide further evidence of atrocities committed by the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against its own people.
Video

Video Drought-Stricken California Considers Upgrading Water System

A three-year drought in California is causing a water shortage that is being felt on farms and cities throughout the state. As VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports, water experts, consumers and farmers say California needs to make changes to cope with an uncertain future.
Video

Video TechShop Puts High-tech Dreams Within Reach

Square, a business app and card reader, makes it possible to do credit card transactions through cell phones. But what made Square possible? VOA’s Adrianna Zhang and Enming Liu have the answer.

All About America

AppleAndroid