Jakarta. Being home to the third largest rainforest in the world, Indonesia has always been watched closely by environmental groups concerned over deforestation.
Massive forest clearing in various parts of the country has been responsible for critical watershed conditions, major declines in endemic wildlife populations and habitat degradation.
According to United States-based environmental group Mighty Earth, Papua is the latest victim of unsustainable forest management practices after rampant deforestation left very few remaining trees in Sumatra and Kalimantan. Forest burning in Papua came into the spotlight last year when South Korean company Korindo cleared thousands of hectares of forest for palm oil concessions.
"First, the forest concessions in Sumatra were exploited. Then it moved to Kalimantan – all gone. Then a number of forest concessions moved to the eastern side of Indonesia, particularly Papua, with some measuring up to a million hectares,"
Bustar Maitar, the activist group's director for Southeast Asia, said on Wednesday (01/02).
His statement came up during a discussion on timber certification and its importance by the Dr. Sjahrir Foundation, which supports education, social welfare and the environment.
Bustar said the lack of urgency with the national mandatory timber legality assurance system, known as SVLK, is mainly due to a lack of ethics by industry players and poor governance by the authorities.
"It's a question of ethics when it comes to implementing policies [such as the SVLK] introduced by the government, as well as the environmental prerequisites [set by the certification]," he explained.
The activist added that Indonesian industry players should avoid the mindset that commodity certifications were being pushed by international demand to make the country uncompetitive in the global market.
"This might be true, but if we want to compete [in the global market], we must improve our standards. It would not just be for the global market, but it is to improve the value of our timber and to add to international recognition," Bustar said.
According to the Association of Indonesia Forest Concession Holders, the export volume of legal timber has been increasing every year, with 17.46 million tons recorded in 2016 from 15.73 million in the previous year.
However, the domestic market shows is more likely to source illegal timber due to a lack of education and the mindset Bustar mentioned.
"If it's not certified, it should be illegal," he said.