Illegal forest clearing in Kalimantan potentially cost the state Rp 321 trillion ($34.6 billion) in losses last year, largely because law enforcement efforts on the ground remain weak, activists claimed on Wednesday.
Citing data from the Forestry Ministry, Indonesia Corruption Watch and the environmental group Save Our Borneo, the activists said in a joint statement that the province of Central Kalimantan accounted for nearly half the losses because of the large number of firms there operating with “flawed permits.”
The groups said some 282 plantation firms and 629 mining firms were responsible for the deforestation of at least seven million hectares in the province.
“The Forestry Ministry’s investigating team calculates that based on the assumption that one hectare of forest can yield 100 cubic meters of timber, and with a reforestation fee and levy of $16 and Rp 60,000 per cubic meter, the total amount of revenue that the state should have received was Rp 158 trillion,” the statement said.
The groups identified similar potential losses of Rp 121.4 trillion in West Kalimantan, Rp 31.5 trillion in East Kalimantan and Rp 9.6 trillion in South Kalimantan.
What makes Central Kalimantan’s case particularly egregious, the statement says, is that some 200,000 hectares of forest that have been cleared there fall inside concessions for 15 companies owned by the head of one the province’s districts and his family and cronies.
The groups said the district head had dished out concessions to a host of sham companies owned by people including his siblings and his driver.
“Save Our Borneo and ICW reported this matter in 2011 to the KPK [Corruption Eradication Commission],” the statement said, adding that the groups would report similar allegations about forest concessions in East Kotawaringin district.
The problem, it went on, is that despite the number of reports filed to law enforcement officials, very little action has been taken.
“Enforcement efforts are not yet optimal because they are still based on using sectoral legislation such as the Forestry Law, the Environmental Law and the Plantations Law,” it said.
“If things remain on this tack, then it is almost certain forestry crimes, specifically the illegal granting of concessions, will be difficult to uncover.”
The groups called instead for the Anti-Corruption Law and the Anti-Money Laundering Law to be used to charge suspects. Among the advantages it cited was the possibility of prosecuting officials who issued illegal permits and stiffer minimum sentences and fines than those prescribed by the other laws.
“The Anti-Corruption Law can also be used against both individuals and companies, it can help in seizures and asset recovery, and it can be used against those who hamper the investigation process,” ICW said.
The groups said although the KPK and the Attorney General’s Office were already using these laws in illegal forestry cases, the number of prosecutions was still very low. The KPK has prosecuted just six such cases, for which 21 people were tried and convicted.