China spurs logging in Indonesia, Papua, elsewhere

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    Martin W
      Even as it wins praise for increasing forest cover at home, China is importing increasing amounts of wood from the jungles of Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Burma.

      “Logging in the forests of Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Burma will continue because of China’s demand,” a forestry expert at the global environmental watchdog Greenpeace told IPS by telephone from Indonesia. “China’s industrial capacity is growing fast, forcing it to look for more timber supplies.”

      Forest plantations will “not be enough to meet China’s increasing needs,” adds the Greenpeace campaigner Hapsoro, who, like many Indonesians, has one name. “The forests in Indonesia and Papua New Guinea are threatened.”

      Indonesia, in fact, is ranked among the worst affected in the world due to the scale of illegal logging to meet the demand for timber in Japan, the United States, the European Union and China, Greenpeace revealed last week.

      “Indonesia’s forests are being destroyed faster than any on Earth. A forest area the size of six football fields disappears every minute,” it adds. “In total, Indonesia has already lost more than 72 percent of its large intact ancient forest areas and 40 percent of its forests have been completely destroyed.”

      Yet, China is winning laurels for helping lead efforts in the Asia-Pacific region to expand forested areas. “Of the 10 countries in the world with the largest plantation areas, six are in the Asia-Pacific region, namely China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Thailand and Vietnam,” states the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). “China posted an overall increase in forest area of more than 9.9 million acres per year between 2000 and 2005.”

      Such a combined effort has helped this region record “the highest rate of forest plantation in the world, over the past five years,” the U.N. food agency added on the eve of a meeting on Asia’s forests being held in Dehradun, India, from April 17 to 21.

      there is little disagreement in the studies done by environmental groups about the pivotal role China plays to find a balance between protecting threatened forests on the one hand and meeting its demand for timber to sustain its construction boom, the furniture it makes and paper products on the other.

      “Faced with an increasing demand for wood and paper products along with diminishing forest resources, China imports timber from many areas including Russia, Indonesia, South America and Central Africa,” states the “Global Forest and Trade Network Quarterly,” a publication of the World Wildlife Fund, in its inaugural issue earlier this year. “These regions have significant problems such as illegal logging.”

      According to the Center for International Forestry Research, China’s imports of round wood are expected to reach 100 million cubic meters by 2010, a six-fold increase in timber imports over 2002, when it was 16 million cubic meters.

      The Asian giant’s appetite for foreign wood arises from its spectacular economic growth and from a policy shift by Beijing in 1999 to protect its environment. The Chinese government banned all logging in its own forests following the death of more than 4,000 people in 1998 from floods linked to heavy deforestation.

      Burma, China’s immediate neighbor to its southwest, soon filled the void created by Beijing’s ban, followed by Indonesia, Malaysia and Papua New Guinea, among others. The timber trade with Burma, which is illegal, is currently estimated to be close to $350 million and includes about 1.5 million cubic meters per year that is transported across the border, Global Witness, a non-governmental group, revealed in early March.

      “On-site investigations during February underscored the need for action — at least 150 loaded log trucks are crossing the border from Burma into China every night,” stated Global Witness. “Cross-border imports (of wood) from Burma to China increased by 12 percent in 2005.”

      According to Hapsoro of Greenpeace, the forests of Southeast Asia will offer early clues if there is a shift away from the illegal timber trade that China is profiting from. “It is not so at the moment. The timber exports from the forests are still increasing in this region.”


      Martin W

        email from Rainforest portal

        Hopes Dim Further for Indonesia’s Rainforests
        Rainforest Portal a project of Ecological Internet, Inc. — Rainforest Portal — Rainforest Newsfeed

        April 28, 2006
        OVERVIEW & COMMENTARY by Dr. Glen Barry, Rainforest Portal

        A month ago I made the audacious statement that the rainforest
        movement had achieved a victory in protecting Indonesia’s
        rainforests and orangutans from a huge oil palm plantation. I
        made this statement fully aware that Indonesia’s rainforests
        were in frenzied crisis and hoping that supporting those in
        government working to conserve rainforests from such atrocities
        could make a positive difference. This hope has proven fleeting.
        I now realize I was wrong, am retracting the victory claim, and
        have realized there is little or no hope for Indonesia’s large
        and intact ancient rainforests. I apologize for my error.

        The latest news is that a Chinese company intends to set-up a
        massive timber plant in Indonesian Papua to process rare
        rainforest timbers for Olympic construction. This will set the
        stage for the final destruction of these relatively intact
        rainforests. The second story details the ongoing power struggle
        between various Indonesian factions for and against the massive
        oil palm project. These actions – which are so grossly unjust
        and unsustainable, and our inability to stop them – show just
        how impotent the rainforest movement has become.

        Together with the nearly four million hectares of deforestation
        already occurring annually in Indonesia’s rainforests, the new
        forces of rainforest destruction arrayed against Indonesia’s
        rainforest ecosystems are simply too great. Nothing can stand
        against a billion Chinese consumers all aspiring to the wasteful
        and deadly living standards of Americans and Europeans.

        Ecological Internet will continue our campaign to support those
        in the Indonesian government that oppose these projects. But
        frankly, there is little hope that anything but the smallest
        little fragmented bits of Indonesia’s rainforests will ever be
        protected, and perhaps I was crazy for saying there was. Let’s
        keep on trying nonetheless.



        ITEM #1
        Indonesia: Chinese firm seeks license to build $1 billion timber
        plant in Papua
        Source: Copyright 2006, Jakarta Post
        Date: April 28, 2006
        Byline: Tb. Arie Rukmantara

        A Chinese company is seeking for the government’s approval to
        set up a timber processing factory worth up to US$1 billion in
        Papua province.

        Forestry Minister Malem Sambat Kaban said in Jakarta on Tuesday
        that the plant would process the province’s famous merbau
        (intsia spp) timber, which would then be exported to China for
        the construction of sports facilities for the 2008 Olympic

        “They need 800,000 cubic meters of merbau timber for the 2008
        Olympics in China,” Kaban told reporters at a breakfast meeting
        at his official residence in Central Jakarta.

        He said the Chinese company would invest up to $1 billion on the
        construction of the plant and on acquiring Merbau logs.

        Merbau is a dark, luxurious, red wood that is primarily used for
        the manufacturing of hardwood floors, and can command prices of
        up to US$138 per square meter. Merbau in round logs costs
        between $200 and $275 per cubic meter on the global market.

        The merbau tree is endemic in the Indonesian provinces of Papua
        and West Irian, as well as in neighboring Papua New Guinea.

        Experts forecast that China’s drive to develop its
        infrastructure to host the Olympics will consume tens of
        millions of cubic meters of primary forestry products, including
        solid wood flooring.

        Kaban said that setting up the timber plant in Papua was the
        only way that the company could meet its timber needs as the
        government has banned the export of round logs since 2001.

        “The company must process all the logs on the ground in Papua
        and then ship them to China as processed timber,” he said,
        adding that the investment deal was expected to be concluded
        this year.

        The government slapped an export ban on unprocessed logs in 2001
        to curb rampant illegal logging, which had been devastating 2.8
        million hectares of forest and inflicting losses on the taxpayer
        of about $4 billion per year.

        Environmentalists are opposed to any project that would further
        accelerate deforestation in Papua, which has some of the world’s
        last remaining large intact forests. However, these forests have
        come under severe pressure from the rampant illegal logging of
        merbau and granting of massive logging concessions.

        “The size of the investment is tempting, but the government
        needs to consider whether there are enough raw materials to
        supply this plant. If there isn’t, the company’s presence might
        only serve to legalize and fuel further illegal logging,” said
        Greenomics executive director Elfian Effendy.

        Environmental groups have said that China’s growing timber
        industry consumes almost all of the estimated 300,000 cubic
        meters of merbau smuggled out of Papua every month.

        Forestry Ministry spokesperson Masyhud said that the ministry
        would ensure that the company would only be supplied with logs
        harvested from timber plantations, and would also require the
        company to establish its own timber plantations.

        “Should the planned investment be approved by both sides, we
        will require them to apply sustainable forestry management
        measures as we are confident that such a large investment will
        mean a long-term presence,” he said.

        ITEM #2
        Title: The end of Borneo’s tropical forests?
        Source: Copyright 2006, New York Times
        Date: April 28, 2006
        Byline: Jane Perlez

        For generations, Anyie Apui and his people have gotten by on
        fish and wild game, made do without roads, and left their
        majestic trees intact. But all that is about to change.

        The Indonesian government recently signed a deal with China that
        would rip into some of the last untouched tropical forests here
        on Borneo, where dozens of new species have been found in recent
        years in an area so vital it is sometimes called the lungs of
        Southeast Asia.

        For China, the wood from the forest will provide flooring and
        furniture for its ever-expanding middle class, and in its place
        will be planted vast plantations for palm oil, an increasingly
        popular ingredient in detergents, soaps, and lipstick.

        For Anyie and his clan, the deal will bring jobs and the
        opportunity for a modern life.

        “We love our forest, but I want to build the road for my people,
        I owe it to them,” said Anyie, 63, an astute elder of the Dayak
        people. “We’ve had enough of this kind of living.”

        The forest-to-palm-oil deal, one of an array of projects that
        China said it would develop in Indonesia as part of a $7 billion
        investment spree last year, illustrates the increasingly
        symbiotic relationship between China’s need for a wide variety
        of raw materials and its Asian neighbors’ readiness to provide
        them – often at enormous environmental cost.

        From Malaysia to Indonesia to Myanmar, many of the once-
        plentiful forests of Southeast Asia are already gone, stripped
        legally or illegally, including some in the low-lying lands here
        in Kalimantan, on the Indonesian side of Borneo.

        Those that remain, like the towering stands in Anyie’s part of
        the highlands, are ever-pressed, ever-prized and ever more
        valuable, particularly as China’s economy continues to surge.
        Only half of Borneo’s original forests still stand.

        Overall, Indonesia says it expects China to invest $30 billion
        in the next decade, a big infusion of capital that contrasts
        with the declining investment here and in the region by American

        Much of that Chinese investment is aimed at the extractive
        industries, along with infrastructure like refineries, railroads
        and toll roads to help speed the flow of Indonesia’s plentiful
        coal, oil, gas, timber, and palm oil to China’s ports.

        On April 19, Indonesia announced that China had placed a $1
        billion rush order for 800,000 cubic meters, or 28.2 million
        cubic feet, of an expensive red- brown hardwood, called merbau,
        to be used in construction of its sports facilities for the 2008
        Olympic Games.

        Merbau wood, mostly prevalent in Papua’s virgin forests, has
        been illegally logged and shipped to China since the late 1990s,
        stripping large swaths of forest in the Indonesian province on
        the western side of the island of New Guinea.

        The decision to award a $1 billion concession to China would
        “increase the deforestation of Papua,” a place of extraordinary
        biodiversity, said Elfian Effendy, executive director of
        Greenomics, an Indonesian environmental watchdog. “It’s not

        The plan for palm oil plantations in Borneo was signed during a
        visit by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of Indonesia to
        Beijing last July.

        Major consumer companies like Procter & Gamble say they are
        using more palm oil in their products instead of refined crude
        oil; palm oil is favored for cooking by the growing Chinese
        middle class, and it is being explored as an alternative fuel.

        Chopping down as much as 1.8 million hectares, or about 4.5
        million acres, of the last straight-stemmed, slow-growing
        towering dipterocarp trees in Borneo, which botanists say are
        essential for sustaining a valuable ecosystem for plants,
        animals and people, has raised a storm of protest from
        Indonesia’s environmentalists, and some economists.

        Maps for the project show it would engulf much of the forests in
        Kayan Mentarang National Park, where the intoxicating mix of
        high altitude and equatorial humidity breeds a rare diversity of
        species, second only to Papua’s, biologists say.

        The area serves as the source of 14 of the 20 major rivers on
        Borneo, and the destruction of the forests would threaten water
        supplies to coastal towns, said Stuart Chapman, a director at
        the World Wildlife Fund in Indonesia.

        Under pressure from environmental groups, the Indonesian
        minister of environment and the minister of forestry both said
        they opposed the plan.

        The coordinating minister for economic affairs, Boediono, said
        this month that he was still deciding the “pros and cons” of
        whether the entire plan would be executed.

        But the head of the Indonesian military, General Djoko Suyanto,
        whose forces are heavily involved in Indonesia’s illegal
        forestry businesses, vigorously endorsed the plan during a visit
        to the Borneo border region in March.

        For years, Anyie, the Dayak elder, said he had resisted offers
        from commercial contractors to cut down the forest around his
        village, adjacent to the park.

        He had worked hard, too, to keep the old ways of life, which
        until 40 years ago included forays into head hunting, he
        explained, showing visitors the skull of a Malaysian soldier
        stowed in his attic, a souvenir from the 1965 Indonesian border
        war with Malaysia.

        But now it was time for a change, he said.

        “People have told me, ‘Wood is gold, you’re still too honest,'”
        said Anyie, a diminutive man with brush cut black hair.

        His own grown children had deserted the village for big towns,
        and the villagers left behind were tired of traveling everywhere
        by foot (three days to neighboring Malaysia, where jobs in palm
        oil plantations are plentiful) or by river boats powered by
        anemic 10- horsepower engines.

        For visitors, the journey is just as arduous. Today the area can
        be reached only by light plane, a pummeling voyage over rapids
        in an open wooden canoe and then a trek through tangles of trees
        and creepers.

        A three-day stay at a research station deep inside the forest
        told what is at stake for the ecosystem, first documented by
        Charles Darwin’s colleague, Alfred Russel Wallace, in an account
        in the late 1850s called “The Malay Archipelago.”

        Wild mango trees, tropical oaks, pale-trunked myrtles, sago
        palms, rattan trees, and pandanas with shiny leaves like long
        prongs crowded the hills that rise almost vertically above the

        Exceedingly tall and elegant dipterocarps towered over all,
        their green canopies filtering shards of occasional sunlight.
        Underfoot, tiny dew encrusted green mosses, still damp in the
        afternoon, clung to rocks, and miniature versions of African
        violets, poked their mauve flowers just above the ground.

        Wildlife abounds, said Stephan Wulffraat, 39, a Dutch
        conservation biologist and the director of the research station
        run by the World Wildlife Fund.

        The forest is home to seven species of leaf monkeys, he said,
        and at high noon, a crashing sound high in the trees announced a
        group’s arrival. A red coated deer made a fleeting appearance
        and dashed off.

        In some areas of the gloomy forest floor, Wulffraat, who fended
        off leeches with his pant legs tucked into knee- length football
        socks, has set more than a dozen camera traps to photograph
        wildlife, which is shy to appear.

        Three years ago, an animal the size of a large cat with a bushy
        tail with a reddish fur sauntered by the camera. Wulffraat, a
        seven-year veteran of the forest, said the animal resembled a
        civet, but he and other experts believe it was an entirely new
        species, he said.

        The discovery of a species of mammal like a civet is unusual,
        but dozens of new species of trees, mosses and herbs,
        butterflies, frogs, fresh water prawns and snakes have all been
        found since the station opened in 1991, he said.

        “This field station has more frogs and snake species around than
        in all of Europe,” Wulffraat said.

        Farther out from the field station there were still unmapped

        “We found an area with trees with trunks one meter in diameter
        and a huge canopy,” he said. “If the logging companies could get
        there, they would be there in a minute.”

        Until now, the forests at these higher elevations have been
        protected by their sheer inaccessibility. To get back to the
        coast from the research station, for instance, takes a 15-hour
        journey along a 560-kilometer, or 350-mile, stretch of the Bahau
        and Kayan rivers in a wooden longboat powered by three outboard

        In contrast, the forests in lowland Kalimantan, where roads have
        been hacked into the land, are so ravaged by logging they will
        have disappeared by 2010, the World Bank says.

        As the roads start penetrating Anyie’s area, the upland forests
        will begin to disappear here, too. The solution to the dilemma
        between the local people’s yearning for jobs and preserving the
        forest was to persuade the logging companies and the government
        to adopt sustainable management plans, Wulffraat said.

        Such a plan would allow logging only in specially certified
        areas, he said. But so far, he said, that had proved a losing

        “In about 30 years,” said Anyie, the tribal elder, “the forest
        will be gone.”

        Muktita Suhartono contributed reporting for this article.

        Martin W

          ACTION ALERT FORWARD WIDELY! China Olympics 2008:

          Destroying Papua’s Ancient Rainforests to Raise the Olympic Torch By Rainforest Portal, project of Ecological Internet, Inc. April 30, 2006 TAKE ACTION Protest China’s Plundering of Ancient Indonesian Rainforests to Build 2008 Olympic Facilities

          With two-and-a-half years to go until the start of the 2008 Olympics to be held in Beijing China, the Chinese government has recently placed a $1 billion rush order for endangered rainforest timbers from Indonesia’s Papua province to be used in construction for the games. A proposed timber processing factory would industrially harvest 800,000 cubic meters of the famous and threatened merbau (intsia spp) rainforest timbers, to be exported to China for the construction of sports facilities. Indonesia’s Papua province on the island of New Guinea has some of the world’s last remaining large intact rainforests.

          These rainforests are millions of years old, contain untold biodiversity and evolutionary history, and provide critical regional and global ecosystem processes. An investment of this size will only serve to legitimize and further fuel illegal, highly unsustainable, and ecologically devastating logging, ensuring the destruction of this critically threatened ancient rainforest. It is against the Olympic ideals of bringing "people together in peace to respect universal moral principles" when the events are housed in ancient rainforest timbers of questionable legality and morality. Please insist the Chinese government commit to hosting an "old-growth, ancient forest free" Olympics.

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