Over 4,000 Hectares of Forest Destroyed in Aceh in Five Months

SEPTEMBER 30, 2016

Jakarta. More than 4,000 hectares of forest have been destroyed in the Leuser Ecosystem Zone in Aceh province over a five-month period this year due to changes in land use, according to nongovernmental organization the Aceh Natural Forests and Environment, or HAkA.

Agung Dwinurcahya, manager for geographic information systems at HAkA, said the total forest cover was reduced from 1,820,726 hectares in January to 1,816,629 hectares in June.

The Leuser Ecosystem Zone stretches over 13 of the province's 23 districts, but most of the forest destruction took place in East Aceh, with up to 1,870 hectares.

In the districts of Gayo Lues and Central Aceh, 405 hectares were lost, while South Aceh saw a loss of 378 hectares.

Additionally, 187 forest fire hotspots were recorded in the province between January and June, with 56 in East Aceh alone. Hotspots were not monitored in North Aceh, West Aceh and Aceh Singkil.

"Hotspots are directly proportional to the loss of forest cover in Aceh. Take East Aceh for example. The district saw the largest number of hotspots. These are the main contributors to deforestation," Agung said on Thursday (29/09).

While the 927 hectares lost in East Aceh occurred mainly in production forests, most of the 184 hectares lost in Gayo Lues losts were in protected areas.

Agung added that the largest forest loss in a limited production forest occurred in Southwest Aceh, with 46 hectares.  In South Aceh, most of the losses occurred in wildlife reserves, with up to 70 hectares, while national parks in Southeast Aceh lost 123 hectares.

According to environmental news website Mongabay, the Leuser Ecosystem also recorded 2,398 forest crimes during the period.

Nearly a quarter of the crimes, mainly involving poaching, illegal road construction, illegal logging and forest encroachment, occurred in Aceh Tamiang district.