Cleared land in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia, with haze from forest fires in the background
Forest loss in Indonesia is reaching the highest levels
measurements began according to new
data published this week by the World Resources Institute, amid weak
law enforcement and a failure to address the root causes of the crisis.
Total tree cover loss was recorded as 2.4 million hectares (ha) in 2016, up from 1.7m ha in 2015 and exceeding the previous record, set in
Forest loss within primary forests also hit a new high in
2016, surpassing 900,000ha. This was driven in large part by a spike in
clearance for plantations in Papua, home to some of the last large tracts of
intact forest in the country.
The increased loss was partly attributable to fires which
ravaged the country in 2015. Cloud cover meant that, while many of the fires
occurred in 2015, tree loss wasn’t recorded by satellites until 2016. However,
even taking a broader perspective by using a rolling three-year average as WRI
recommends, deforestation is reaching highs not previously seen.
Case studies suggest that continued rampant illegality is playing a central role in the ongoing deforestation crisis. Earthsight analysis in November 2015 showed that the Korean firm Korindo was illegally using fire to clear forest on two of its palm oil concessions in Papua.
Subsequent analysis found
the firm had destroyed 30,000 hectares of forest on the island since 2013.
Korindo initially denied
the accusations, but later announced a moratorium on land development in
its palm oil concessions after losing
several of its biggest buyers.
Firespots inside Korindo's PT Tunas Sawaerma oil palm concession on Indonesian Papua
Elsewhere, drone footage gathered in September 2016
found widespread evidence of the criminal use of fire to clear forest in Riau province on the
island of Sumatra. A senior official in Riau has estimated that the province
contains a million hectares of
illegal oil palm plantations.
Campaigners have also raised concerns over the failure of the Indonesian police to properly investigate the causes of the 2015 fires. In July 2016, police in Riau formally closed the cases against 15 palm oil companies alleged to have started fires in the province.
said the fires were lit by local communities outside the boundaries of
large-scale palm oil concessions. Subsequent field research by the network
Jikalahari unearthed extensive
evidence contradicting this verdict.
Previously, a 2014 study estimated that 80% of the deforestation that took place in Indonesia between 2000 and 2012 was illegal.
in-depth investigations by Earthsight have exposed the corrupt
political interests that underpin this problem.