Deforestation in Indonesia: Increasing catastrophe at global level

Indonesia is one of the planet’s greatest and oldest biodiversity hotspots. It is the home to the world’s third largest tropical forest, after Amazon and Congo. But over the period of 30 years, it has lost a staggering 25 Million hectares of forest, an area equivalent to the size of the United Kingdom. This is going to be catastrophic not just for Indonesia but for the entire world.  Indonesia’s peat forests act like a giant sponge, storing water and absorbing carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas. It has some of the deepest and largest peatlands in the world. These are very huge carbon sinks. If they are treated right, they can help absorb and curb the climate change problem. But when these trees are destroyed, the carbon gets released into the atmosphere.

If the peatlands are developed wrongly or overdeveloped, these will release fires, haze and carbon much worse then any normal land or fire. In 2015, fires destroyed an area nearly five times the size of Bali. Despite efforts to protect peatlands forests since, Indonesia continues to lose huge areas of forests every year. According to Herry Purnomo, scientist at Center for International forestry Research, the direction is good but their capacity, their budget, their efforts are lacking. Corruption is also everywhere. So this is like a battle between the good side and the bad side.

Where there is conflict between business interest and that of the government, and if one is stronger than the other, then it becomes ineffective. Indonesia’s goal is to reduce the rate of deforestation from some 1.5 million hectares a year, to 2,50,000 hectares by 2030. Ruandha Agung Sugardiman, Director General of Climate change Ministry of Environment and Forestry said that now it is 400,000 hectares which is a sharp drop. This is an incredible effort, especially on the part of law enforcement. But despite the moratorium on clearing of forests and peatlands, the lack of monitoring, especially during the pandemic, has been a problem. In addition to travel restrictions and social distancing, a budget cut this year has also hampered the government’s monitoring efforts.