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Indonesia criticized over 'green policy'

Human and economic cost of deforestation mounts

Indonesia criticized over 'green policy'

Graft and forestry mismanagement are fueling environmental and rights problems, HRW says  

Ryan Dagur, Jakarta

July 17, 2013

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Corruption and mismanagement are to blame for the destruction of Indonesia’s forests, which has resulted in serious human rights and environmental problems, according to a Human Rights Watch (HRW) report released yesterday.

Illegal logging and forest mismanagement resulted in the Indonesian government incurring more than US$7 billion in losses between 2007 and 2011, the New York-based rights group said.

The government’s “green growth” strategy involving the clearing of forests for palm oil plantations has played a significant part in the smog affecting Indonesia and neighboring countries the report said.

A zero burning policy, moratorium on forest clearing and laws against illegal logging to counter this are manifestly inadequate, it added.

“The return of the smog is only the most tangible evidence of the damage from Indonesia’s continuing failure to effectively manage its forests,” Joe Saunders, HRW’s deputy program director, said in a statement following the report's release.

According to HRW, the significant loss of revenues has slowed down progress on a number of human rights concerns, notably those related to rural health care.

The group said in 2011 alone more than US$2 billion was lost to a handful of corrupt people, adding that the amount stolen was more than the country’s entire health budget for that year.

Zenzi Suhadi from the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (WALHI), agreed that corruption and mismanagement of forests remain a big issue.

Only last month, he said, WALHI reported five cases of bribery to Indonesia’s Corruption Eradication Commission.

“Those involved were ministers and ex-ministers, local officials and directors of plantation companies. Losses were estimated at about 2.92 trillion rupiah [US$280 million],” he said.

Forestry Ministry spokesman Sumarto Suharno, today dismissed the report, but admitted the government needs to improve several things.

“Our financial reports are accurate,” Suharno told today.

“So how can the [HRW] report say there were losses of more than US$7 billion between 2007 and 2011?”

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