Papua losing more forest to development

Papua losing more forest to development
, 4 June 2010

Papua's forested areas have shrunk further due to rampant infrastructure development activities and the formation of new regions across the province, an official says.

Papua Forestry Office head Marthen Kayoi estimated the province's forested areas had declined from some 31.5 million to 28 million hectares.

"There are seven new regencies in Papua that must develop their infrastructure. All regencies are located in Lorentz National Park," Marthen told reporters after attending a Papua forestry development coordinating meeting in Timika.

He blamed the depleting forested areas in Papua partly to people's activities, such as the slash-and-burn practice within preserved forests such as Lorentz National Park, home to many Papuan villages.

"The coordinating meeting is part of our effort to evaluate the whole forestry program and draw up the technical plans for the governor to issue a bylaw," he said.

Papua is covered by the largest expanse of intact tropical rainforest, or some 24 percent of Indonesia's total remaining forested area, in Southeast Asia.

Eighty-five percent of Papua's forests are classified as intact forests, comprising a mixture of unique Asian and Australian plant species.

Almost 60 percent of the mammal population in Papua is endemic in the island, as are more than 40 percent of Papua's birds.

More than 47 percent of Papua's forests are classified as lowland rainforest, which makes the province home to the largest remaining tract of lowland forest in Indonesia.

Some 57 percent of Papua's production forests, covering more than 9.2 million hectares, has been allocated to large-scale forest concession (HPH) holders.

Many of these timber concessions have become inactive over recent years and timber production has consequently declined.

Kayoi said that 14 of the 25 HPH were still operating in Papua in line with the Forestry Ministry's decree.

He said Papua's forestry management remained so weak that forestry development evaluations were inevitable.

The forestry offices across the regencies in Papua are ready to formulate a database of the profiles of villages located within protected forests, as well as map out the mining sites within them, he added.

Kayoi said the provincial administration would also form provincial-owned forestry firms and maintain the presence of community forests and community-based production forests in an effort to improve people's welfare.

In his written speech for the event, Papua Governor Barnabas Suebu warned forestry offices and relevant agencies that widespread forest conversion and illegal logging was still taking place and had led to environmental degradation, which could eventually worsen erosion and cause floods.