Berita kebakaran hutan dan lahan bukan hal baru di Indonesia. Tapi drama penyenderaan di tengah “musim kebakaran”? Ini sesuatu yang baru, dan mendominasi deretan tajuk utama pemberitaan di awal September. Setelah mengumpulkan bukti lahan yang terbakar di area konsesi kebun sawit di Rokan Hulu, Riau, tujuh petugas Kementerian Lingkungan Hidup dan Kehutanan (KLHK) disandera dan dipaksa menyerahkan atau menghapus bukti yang mereka kumpulkan.
Forest and land fires making the news in Indonesia is nothing new. But a hostage drama in the middle of “fire season”? That’s a new twist, and indeed dominated headlines in early September. After collecting evidence of burned land within a palm oil concession in Rokan Hulu, Riau, seven inspectors from the Ministry of Environment and Forestry (MOEF) were taken captive and violently threatened to handover or delete the gathered evidence.
World Bank Vice President for East Asia & Pacific Axel van Trotsenburg talks about his visit to Central Kalimantan as part of the World Bank's support for the REDD+ initiative.
We’ve written before about a climate-related effort in developing countries known as REDD – or Reducing Emissions through Deforestation and Degradation. So one of the outcomes during last month’s U.N. climate conference that I found particularly interesting was an announcement from Google.org. During the conference in Copenhagen, the search giant's philanthropic arm introduced the prototype for an online application that will allow monitoring of forests around the planet.
Apparently, some believed that the overall topic of REDD may have been one of the few bright spots during the two-week conference. To me, it seems like this forthcoming online monitoring tool is no exception – particularly because Google products are often innovative, easy to use and reliable.
The announcement generated quite bit of media buzz, and Google.org’s press release has a nice explanation of why the online application, likely available to the public some time this year, might be so significant:
Traditional forest monitoring is complex and expensive, requiring access to large amounts of satellite data, lots of hard drives to hold the data, lots of computers to process the data, and lots of time while you wait for various computations to finish. … Google supplies data, storage, and computing muscle. As a result, you can visualize forest change in fractions of a second over the web, instead of the minutes or hours that traditional offline systems require for such analysis.
In July, biodiversity specialist and blogger Tony Whitten wrote a post about not abandoning old-fashioned conservation techniques as an important method of taking positive action on climate change. One of the important old-school mitigation methods, he wrote, lies in protecting the world’s forests through reforestation and avoiding further deforestation.
Accordingly, a big part of the ongoing climate change discussion includes reducing emissions through deforestation and degradation (known as REDD). And the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization now offers a tool to help monitor forests in developing countries. Using satellite imagery and other data, the Global Forest Resources Assessment Portal displays the information on an interactive map.
|It was clear that our study area on the Indonesian island of Siberut is now rarely visited by anyone. (More photos)|
My last post described my reactions to going back to Siberut Island with my wife after a 30-year break, and this one considers the changing conservation situation there. The terrestrial mammals of the island are remarkable in that almost all are endemic, and among them are four species of primates (one an endemic genus) – levels of endemism equivalent to those found in Madagascar.
There has been formal logging on and off over the last 30 years but we hadn’t found a map of exactly where. When we reached the basin where our study area had been, the views from the villages was of logged-over forest. The rights to log the forests had been negotiated with local clans, but in hindsight the benefits were pretty meager and short-lived. The trees the loggers sought were the large and magnificent Shorea, and with these now gone it is getting harder for people to make their dugout canoes. Also, we were struck by the contrast of the timber quality of the longhouses we visited in areas without logging against the timber quality of the small government-sponsored modern houses with corrugated iron roofs. The timber available now seems to start looking decayed as soon as it is nailed into place.
|The number of Ironwood trees in Sumatra has greatly reduced because of heavy demand for the timber.
Carbon finance, and recently reported growth in the carbon market, is seen by many as having the potential to lower global emissions and combat climate change.
|Click map to enlarge.|
It's nearly 35 years since I first flew over Sumatra, an island in western Indonesia. Looking out of the plane window, the dark green forests stretched to the horizon. Even if there weren't any Truffula trees, there were many herds of elephants, families of tigers, groups of monkeys and many thousands of lone orangutans calling and moving around the forest, hardly ever crossing paths with humans. Then came the organized loggers, the transmigration settlements, and the plantations – rubber, oil palm and industrial timber.
About half Sumatra's forests have been lost since 1985. Last year, a WWF report (pdf) found that forest cover in Riau province, central Sumatra, has fallen from 78% to 25% in 25 years.