" The tropical forests of Indonesia are the lungs of the world. They are the concern of the whole world. However, as a country with high levels of deforestation, and forest fires leading to carbon emissions, especially from peat swamp forest, we are a major contributor to global warming…Indonesia is the third biggest carbon emitter in the world. The only greater carbon emitters are America and China. ” TOGU MANERUNG
Indonesia is home to tropical forests which are amongst the most bio-diverse and extensive on earth. It is estimated that some 40 million Indonesians are directly dependent on these forests for their livelihood. The forests help protect supplies of freshwater for the 320 million Indonesians living across the archipelago. They play a major part in the prevention of landslides, flooding, and droughts. Indonesia’s forests, particularly peat swamp forests, also store vast reserves of carbon. The forests provide habitat for an abundance of unique species of flora and fauna, including some of the world’s most beloved species such as the orangutan, tiger, and elephant.
“The forests of Indonesia, and all the commercially valuable resources they provide – such as timber and non-timber products, environmental services, and as areas of biodiversity – if left standing they can more than pay for Indonesian development. But if we are honest with ourselves we are not managing our forest assets wisely. We still focus on using forests to extract timber, or converting the forest for agricultural development. It is really lamentable.” ARBI VALENTINUS, Leading Civil RIghts Co-ordinator
The exploitation and clearance of forests has played a major part in funding Indonesia’s economy since the early 1970s, but the financial reward of this destruction has primarily only benefited an elite few. Land management has been largely unsustainable, based on short-term gains. The majority of the Indonesian population has had to suffer the broader consequences and the subsequent increase in natural disasters: floods, droughts, erosion, landslides, water and air pollution, fires…Yet the rate of deforestation continues to accelerate. The pulp and paper industry has expanded so rapidly in the last 20 years that the demand for wood can no longer be met by any sustainable forest management regime. The Indonesian government continues to lose billions of dollars in lost revenue each year due to the continued prevalence of illegal timber exports. The vast fires which rage across Kalimantan and Sumatra every dry season represent a massive economic and environmental loss, and make Indonesia a mass exporter of smog.
“It is forbidden to use fire to clear forested land. Yet companies continue to start fires in order to clear land because it is cheaper…because of all the land burning we are very popular in this region as an exporter of haze. The government needs to act against the companies who are responsible. We have rules. They should be followed and enforced by law.” CRISTIAN PURBA, Forest Watch Indonesia
Between 1991 and 2006, palm oil plantations were being established in Indonesia at a rate equivalent in area to over fifty football pitches an hour. The phenomenal growth of the palm oil industry poses a major challenge to the survival of Indonesia’s forests and the people and animals that depend upon and inhabit them. Indonesia is the second biggest producer of palm oil in the world, second only to Malaysia, and the palm oil industry provides the country with an important source of revenue. International demand has fueled the expansion of the industry. Palm oil is present in 1 in 10 supermarket products, from bread and crisps, to biscuits, paints and lipsticks. Europe currently accounts for around one third of the market for Indonesian palm oil, the other major markets being India and China.
“Based on our monitoring, there are currently 7.2 million hectares of palm oil plantation. Over the next five years, Kalimantan and Eastern Indonesia will be the targets for oil palm expansion…particularly Papua.” ABET NEGO TARRIGAN, SAWIT WATCH INDONESIA
The rapid expansion of oil palm plantation acreage is set to continue, and to accelerate. The market for vegetable oil as a biofuel is increasing in response to the need to reduce global carbon emissions. Palm oil is currently considered the most productive source of biodiesel fuel, and the Indonesian government has plans for a further 4 million hectares of palm oil plantation by 2015 that will be dedicated solely to biofuel production. Yet ironically the replacement of Indonesian rainforest with palm oil plantations for biofuel will exacerbate rather than reduce the problem of climate change. In their attempts to cut carbon dioxide emissions, international markets are driving the destruction of ecosystems and actually producing vast emissions of CO2 through forest fires and the drainage of peat swamp.
“This is a challenge for the whole world. How can we reduce the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere? We could start by protecting our forests, especially tropical forests.” TOGU MANERUNG
Indonesia’s palm oil industry is dominated by some of the same conglomerates that control the logging and pulp and paper industries, illustrative of the strong connection between forest clearance, supplies of timber, and the establishment of large-scale plantations.
The forthcoming film "THE STATE of THE FOREST" is a hard-hitting report, providing the viewer with a snapshot of the condition of Indonesia’s rainforest right now, and the historical factors which have led to this state. In the wake of the Bali UN Climate Change Conference in December 2007, we hear from a variety of different Indonesian academics on how forest management is effecting greenhouse gas emissions and the implications of this at both national and international levels. The film is a mixture of voices from communities covering Papua, Kalimantan and Sumatra, also blended with the expertise of some of the key Indonesian academics and activists in these fields.