Indonesia's forest loss worsening

Indonesia's forest loss worsening

Indonesia's forest loss worsening As natural resources dwindle and the effects of climate change are felt, governments and businesses are looking at how to be sustainable. The Straits Times looks at the state of sustainable development in Singapore, Japan and Indonesia

INDONESIA'S officials and businesses have pledged to adhere to environmentally sustainable practices amid criticism of severe deforestation and a polluting annual haze that have characterised the country's oil palm cultivation.

Yet new data has emerged showing that the rate of deforestation in Indonesia has accelerated over the last 12 years, providing fodder for criticism that pledges like these remain just talk.

The Indonesian Chamber of Commerce (Kadin) said in September it was looking at ways to develop an eco-label, among others, as part of a programme to support the Environment Ministry's implementation of the United Nations 10-Year Sustainable Consumption and Production Programme.

But critics have said such efforts, amid an environment where corruption remains rife and the land acquisition process is complicated, will have to be backed by strong laws and enforcement.

Using data from Google and Nasa, a team of scientists led by the University of Maryland showed Indonesia's forest loss rose from 10,000 sq km yearly between 2000 and 2003 to 20,000 sq km between 2011 and 2012.

The study, published in the journal Science this month, says Indonesia ranks among the top five countries with the highest forest loss, recording 15.8 million hectares between 2000 and 2012.

Such losses cast doubt over the effectiveness of a moratorium on new logging and oil palm permits put in place in 2011 to stem deforestation.

The ban, extended for another two years in May this year, was meant to preserve 64 million ha of forests, as part of the country's commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 26 per cent by 2020.

But as losses from Sumatra's forest fires this year that caused the worst haze in the region in 16 years are being tallied, insiders say they are not holding their breath that the haze will disappear next year.

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