Local community body worries natural forest auction

EoF News / 08 February 2007

PEKANBARU (EoF News) --Riau Malay Customary-Law Community Body calls on authority not to reactivate defunct HPH selective logging concession for pulp industry and should return the forest rights use to local customary (adat) community, says its advisory board. Anwar Saleh, the advisory board member of the traditional body, reminded that his organization and the government have set a moral consensus internally in responding forest issues in Riau that recommended that defunct HPH concession should not be renewed. “Just grant the HPH concession to local communities through [local] government,” he told Riau Pos daily as quoted by saying early this month.
The Malay Customary Law Community (Lembaga Adat Melayu/LAM) of Riau is a forum for local indigenous communities which associated in Sumatra Customary Law Communities. The organization responded to the Ministry of Forestry’s auction plan of 254,000-hectare forests surrounding Bukit Tigapuluh forest landscape in Riau and Jambi provinces. [see EoF Press Release, 30 Jan. 2007 ]. “LAM Riau strongly disagrees and protest over the auction of HPH to HTI [industrial timber plantation] concession,” he warned. “If it does so, we fear there will be tough reaction at each of district and customary law regions.” He said the government’s position is too weak if it bends over the ambition of pulpwood industry to convert the natural forests for such an industry.
Anwar also said that the Sumatra Malay Customary Law Ethnic Body will create its own stance to the conversion plan. Meanwhile, Head of Bukit Tigapuluh National Park, Haryono, said that proposed Bukit Tigapuluh National Park extension will be heavily troubled by the HPH auction of PT Industries et Forestry Asiatiques (IFA) and PT Seberida Wahana Sejahtera for pulpwood of acacia. Haryono said he feared that acacia is easily generated even by the wind alone which will dominate the national park and inevitably convert it to acacia plantation, Riau Terkini website reported.
He said the expansion of Bukit Tigapuluh National Park to get approval from Riau Governor as 13,000 ha of 86,000 ha of the forest is situated inside Riau territory, while the rest is inside Jambi which already got green light from the provincial government. The national park is planned to expand by 230,223 ha from 144,223 ha. In the latest development, deputy Riau forestry service, Sudirno, said Wednesday the provincial government is still mulling the plan to expand Bukit Tigapuluh National Park, particularly by reviewing allocation for the proposed protected area.
He said the Riau government anticipated further conflict to occur due to the proposed protected area is located inside two provinces. Beside several forest crimes, Bukit Tigapuluh forest block is facing imminent threats from growing coal mines as their licenses issued by the local administration.