Andi Hajramurni, The Jakarta Post, Makassar
The government has embarked on an enormous reforestation program in a bid to rehabilitate 59.2 million hectares of damaged forest throughout Indonesia, Forestry Minister Malam Sambat Kaban said Tuesday.
This year the government plans to plant 2 billion seedlings on two-million hectares of land along 318 river banks in all provinces in the country, Kaban said.
Speaking at a coordination meeting in Makassar, the minister said the government had earmarked funds amounting to Rp 4.1 trillion (approximately US$445 million) from the 2007 state budget to finance the program.
The planting activities will be conducted between September and October this year simultaneously throughout the country, he said, adding that the program would be launched by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Vice President Jusuf Kalla.
Kaban said that his ministry would soon tender the seedling procurement, urging owners of seedling businesses, including farmers, to prepare themselves.
He said that besides involving government institutions, the planting program would also involve timber estate (HTI) businessmen and forest concession (HPH) holders.
Both the HTI and HPH representatives will be entrusted to reforest 350,000 and 85,000 hectares of unproductive land respectively, he said, adding that state-owned forestry company Perum Perhutani would be assigned to reforest 200,000 hectares of land in Java.
The minister said that the only way to prevent further destruction of forests was through massive planting efforts. "There is no other way to revitalize our damaged forests, except through programs such as this," he said.
Kaban said the rate of forest destruction in Indonesia was 2.83 million hectares per year. As a direct result of this, some 59 million hectares of Indonesia's 120.35 hectares of forest have already been damaged.
He attributed the fast rate of deforestation to illegal logging practices, trade in illegal forest products, illegal mining, theft and forest fires.
As a result of the damaged forests, Indonesia suffered losses of about Rp 30 trillion per annum, not including the disappearance of rich natural resources, he said.
Kaban said forest destruction had also led to various natural disasters, including flooding, landslides and drought, due to the fact that forests could no longer function properly.
Andi Idris Syukur, head of the South Sulawesi Forestry Office, said the rate of forest destruction in South Sulawesi was currently 700 hectares out of 2.1 million hectares.
The forest destruction, Andi said, was caused mainly by illegal logging practices and forest fires as well as the conversion of forest land for residential complexes.