The Risk to Our Forests? ‘Extreme’

Source : Jakarta Globe – November 24, 2011
Ulma Haryanto

Despite government efforts, Indonesia still has one of the highest rates of deforestation in the world, a new study showed on Thursday.

In the ranking of 180 countries released by British risk analysis and mapping firm Maplecroft, Indonesia was near the top along with Nigeria and North Korea.

“One of the principle risks to the world’s forests is the production of palm oil, which is increasing at 9 percent annually throughout the tropical belt, due to expanding biofuel markets in the European Union and global food demand,” Maplecroft said in a statement on its Web site.

Indonesia, ranked second in the Deforestation Index, is the world’s largest producer of palm oil. Maplecroft estimated that palm oil production accounted for almost 16 percent of total deforestation in the country.

The government in May began a two-year moratorium on issuing new licenses to clear primary forests and peatlands and will conduct regular satellite surveillance to monitor the ban.

But Maplecroft said the Indonesian ban on deforestation was simply forcing palm oil producers to seek land elsewhere, notably in the West African countries of Liberia, Gabon and Ghana, which will likely increase their risk.

Nigeria, ranked first in the index, lost just over two million hectares of forest annually between 2005 and 2010, driven by agricultural expansion, logging and infrastructure development.

Hadi Daryanto, secretary general of the Indonesian Forestry Ministry, said the numbers were “misleading.”

“Their calculation is based on average number,” he said. “They don’t see how much we have reduced deforestation.”

Maplecroft said it based its findings on the latest data from the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization to calculate changes in the extent of overall forest cover, and in primary and planted forests between 2005 and 2010.

Hadi said Indonesia had been losing 3.5 million hectares of forest per year until 2003, but this number had been reduced to 1.1 million hectares in 2009. “By 2010, the amount was down to 700,000 hectares,” he said.

Maplecroft said the countries listed highest were classified as being at extreme risk. That means they are losing plant and animal species, clean air from forests and watersheds for rivers and mangroves that protect coastlines. All of these are services that help underpin economies.

Environmental activists have blamed rampant deforestation for contributing to the threatened extinction of the Sumatran tiger.

“If the forests are not protected, what’s left of the Sumatran tiger is the stories, just like the Java and Bali tigers,” said Rusmadiya Maharuddin, from Greenpeace Southeast Asia.

There are only 400 Sumatran tigers left in the wild.

Indigenous people are also losing their homes because of deforestation.

On the other end of the scale, Maplecroft, citing heavy investments in protection and ref o restation, ranked the world’s biggest polluters, China and the United States, in the bottom five countries in the Deforestation Index.

Additional reporting from Ismira Lutfia

Link : http://www.thejakartaglobe.com/nvironment/the-risk-to-our-forests-extreme/480736

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