03/12/2008, 00.00
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Indonesia liquidates its forests for a few dollars

by Mathias Hariyadi
Groups for the defence of the environment denounce the falsity of Jakarta's commitment to combating deforestation. A recent presidential decree grants protected zones to mining companies for 200 dollars a hectare. Each year, the country loses 1.8 million hectares of forest.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) - The international commitment of Indonesia - repeated just recently in December, at the climate conference in Bali - to contain deforestation and reduce carbon emissions is not being translated into concrete actions.  On the contrary: the government is liquidating the patrimony of the archipelago's forests to mining companies for a few rupiah.  The denunciation comes from a few groups for the protection of the environment.  They accuse the recent presidential decree 2/2008, by which Jakarta concedes the exploitation of the forest areas for a ridiculous rental payment of about 200-265 dollars per hectare.

According to the Mining Advocacy Community Network (Jatam), the Yudhoyono administration forgets that, between 2000 and 2005, the rate of deforestation in Indonesia was the highest in the world.  145 million hectares of Indonesian forest area were quickly cleared.  According to a non-governmental report, every day 51 square kilometres of forest are destroyed, for a total of 1.8 million hectares each year.  The role of the forests is fundamental for the absorption of carbon.  But their destruction provokes a release of carbon that significantly increases emissions of carbon dioxide, the main cause of global warming.

The controversial decree concerns the 13 large mining companies that since 2004 have obtained permission to operate in the forest areas.  It is calculated that their activities - concentrated in areas like Sumatra, Papua New Guinea, the Maluku Islands, and Borneo - release between 125 and 251 million tons of carbon dioxide into the environment.  The provisions also extend to energy resource companies.  Indonesia is rich in coal, nickel, gold, tin, and copper, and the country intends to provide incentives for investment in the sector.  Strong demand for these basic materials in India and China has helped cause a spike in their prices.

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