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

Brutality Eroding IS Financial Support

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper says IS's penchant for publicizing beheadings, other brutal forms of punishment hurts group’s bottom line More

Studies: Climate Change a Factor in Disasters in Syria, California

The studies point to the possibility of clear and present dangers from a threat often considered to be far in the future More

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials and human rights organizations assert that Pakistani authorities are using deadly attack at school in Peshawar as pretext to push out Afghan refugees More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Kerry Seeks Assurances of Russian Non-Interference in Ukrainei
X
March 03, 2015 3:11 AM
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has told his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, that his country could face further consequences to what he called its “already strained economy” if Moscow does not fully comply with a cease-fire in Ukraine. The two met, on Monday, on the sidelines of a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, where Kerry outlined human rights violations in Russian-annexed Crimea and eastern Ukraine. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports from Geneva.
Video

Video Kerry Seeks Assurances of Russian Non-Interference in Ukraine

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has told his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, that his country could face further consequences to what he called its “already strained economy” if Moscow does not fully comply with a cease-fire in Ukraine. The two met, on Monday, on the sidelines of a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, where Kerry outlined human rights violations in Russian-annexed Crimea and eastern Ukraine. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports from Geneva.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Prepare to Defend Mariupol

Despite the ongoing ceasefire in Ukraine, soldiers in the city of Mariupol fear that pro-Russian separatists may be getting ready to attack. The separatists must take or encircle the city if they wish to gain land access to Crimea, which was annexed by Russia early last year. But Ukrainian forces, many of them volunteers, say they are determined to defend it. Patrick Wells reports from Mariupol.
Video

Video Moscow Restaurants Suffer in Bad Economy, Look for Opportunity

As low oil prices and Western sanctions force Russia's economy into recession, thousands of Moscow restaurants are expected to close their doors. Restaurant owners face rents tied to foreign currency, while rising food prices mean Russians are spending less when they dine out. One entrepreneur in Moscow has started a dinner kit delivery service for those who want to cook at home to save money but not skimp on quality. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video US, Cuba Report Progress in Latest Talks to Restore Ties

The United States and Cuba say they have made progress in the second round of talks on restoring diplomatic relations more than 50 years after breaking off ties. Delegations from both sides met in Washington on Friday to work on opening embassies in Havana and Washington and iron out key obstacles to historic change. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas reports from the State Department.
Video

Video Presidential Hopefuls Battle for Conservative Hearts and Minds

One after another, presumptive Republican presidential contenders auditioned for conservative support this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference held outside Washington. The rhetoric was tough as a large field of potential candidates tried to woo conservative support with red-meat attacks on President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress. VOA Political Columnist Jim Malone takes a look.
Video

Video NYC's Restaurant Week: An Economic Boom in Fine Dining

New Yorkers take pride in setting world trends — in fashion, the arts and fine dining. The city’s famous biannual Restaurant Week plays a significant role in a booming tourism industry that sustains 359,000 jobs and generates $61 billion in yearly revenue. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports.
Video

Video Brookhaven at Cutting Edge of US Energy Research

Issues like the Keystone XL pipeline, fracking and instability in the Middle East are driving debate in the U.S. about making America energy independent. Recently, the American Energy Innovation Council urged Congress and the White House to make expanded energy research a priority. One beneficiary of increased energy spending would be the Brookhaven National Lab, where clean, renewable, efficient energy is the goal. VOA's Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Southern US Cities Preserve Civil Rights Heritage to Boost Tourism

There has been a surge of interest in the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s, thanks in part to the Hollywood motion picture "Selma." Five decades later, communities in the South are embracing the dark chapters of their past with hopes of luring tourism dollars. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.
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 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.

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