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ENVIRONMENT REPORT – January 24, 2003: Illegal Destruction of Indonesian Forests - 2003-01-23

This is the VOA Special English ENVIRONMENT REPORT.

Two environmental groups blame dishonesty among Indonesian officials for the continued destruction of the country’s forests. Their report says illegal tree cutting is threatening the native environment of rare animals, including the orangutan. It says the illegal operations are harming large areas of rainforest, including those protected by the Indonesian government.

The Environmental Investigation Agency and Telapak released the report. Telapak is an environmental group based in Indonesia. The Environmental Investigation Agency operates in several countries.

The two groups say Indonesia controls ten percent of the world’s tropical rainforests. They say illegal operations to remove trees are causing large areas of forest to disappear.

Environmental Investigation Agency director Dave Currey says the illegal operations are completely out of control. He says the Indonesian government offered to stop tree cutting in the country’s national parks three years ago. Since then, he says, the problem has worsened.

The two groups say illegal activities are to blame for the loss of more than sixteen-thousand square kilometers of forest each year. They say studies have shown that more than seventy percent of all wood processed in Indonesia comes from illegal logging operations.

The groups note that Indonesia has laws that ban such activities. But they say that dishonest judges and political leaders enable tree-cutters to buy protection from legal action.

The groups examined the situation in the Tanjung Puting (TAHNG-joong POOT-ing) National Park on the island of Borneo. The area is home to world famous centers to protect orangutans. The groups found thousands of cubic meters of trees being cut at illegal processing centers in the park. They say some of the wood came from rare kinds of trees.

The new report praises Indonesia’s government for establishing treaties to limit the international trade in illegal wood products. However, it says the government has not done enough to deal with problems within Indonesia. The report says the government risks having one of its most valuable natural resources removed in order to supply rare woods to other countries.

This VOA Special English ENVIRONMENT REPORT was written by George Grow.