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Places to Watch Fifth Edition: the Top 5 Places to Watch for Indications of Illegal Logging

This fifth edition features the top 5 Places to Watch for indications of illegal logging between 1 January to 31 March 2019.

#1 Indications of Illegal Logging in a 160.50-Ha Area in a Production Forest Area, West Pasaman Regency, West Sumatera

The first indicated area (#1) is located in Air Bangis Village, Sungai Beremas Sub-district, West Pasaman Regency, West Sumatera Province. A 160.50-ha logging was indicated to occur in the production forest area which located near an Industrial Plantation Forest (HTI) concession. Satellite imagery has identified a network of roads that leads to logging activities that occur near existing land clearings. As no visible signs of planting on the cleared land have been identified, the objective for this land clearing remains unclear. This case illegal logging must be kept under watch.

This indicated area has been verified by several secondary sources that have reported issues of illegal logging in the West Pasaman Regency. For example, in 2015 it was reported that the West Pasaman Forestry Service had demolished the cottages of illegal loggers in Nagari Air Bangis. In February 2018, the West Pasaman Police uncovered the transportation of illegal timber in Nagari Air Bangis. Last April, it was also reported that the police had determined three suspects in production forest encroachment. They were caught carrying heavy equipment for plantation activities in a production forest area without permit.

#2 Indications of Illegal Logging in a 116.23-Ha Area in a Production Forest Area, Rokan Hilir Regency, Riau

The second indicated area (#2) is located in Desa Labuhan Village, Tanah Putih Tanjung Melawan Sub-district, Rokan Hilir (Rohil) Regency, Riau Province. The 116.23-ha land clearing is located in a production forest area with the land cover of secondary swamp forest. This land clearing is adjacent to an Industrial Plantation Forest (HTI) concession to the west. High-resolution satellite imagery shows systematic blocks of land clearing where each block is connected to a road. No visible signs of planting have followed the land clearing, so the objective of this land clearing remains unclear. This could indicate that the land is being converted into a plantation as an extension of the existing plantation forest, but further verification is required.

Desktop study reveals plenty of illegal logging cases and conflicts between the community and corporations in Rohil. For example, Kompas Riau reported a land conflict between the locals and corporations in the Labuhan Papan area in April 2018. Around the same time, university students who are members of the Tanah Putih Student Association (Hipermata) reported the encroachment of thousands of hectares of forest and land conflict between the community and corporations in the Tanah Putih Tanjung Melawan Sub-district to the Regional People’s Representative Council (DPRD) Office.

#3 Indications of Illegal Logging in a 49.29-Ha Area in a Protected Forest Area, Banyuasin Regency, South Sumatera

A 49.29-ha illegal logging was indicated in the Makarti Jaya Sub-district, Banyuasin Regency, South Sumatera Province. This area is located close to Indicated Area (#5) in the third edition of Places to Watch and Indicated Area (#2) in the second edition of Places to Watch. High-resolution satellite imagery shows indications of the expansion of a palm oil plantation located around the land clearing area. The cleared land is connected to an existing network of roads. No visible signs of planting have followed the land clearing, so the objective of the land clearing remains unclear.

Indication of illegal logging in the protected forest area in Banyuasin Regency was also reported in the third edition of Places to Watch, which mentioned the many permanent plantations in protected forest areas and high land demands for non-forest activities as some of the strategic forest management issues in Unit 1 of Banyuasin’s Protected Forest Management Unit (KPHL) area. The fact that another indication of illegal logging in the Banyuasin Regency is found in this edition reinforces the indication of illegal logging in the area, which requires immediate follow-up.

#4 Indications of Illegal Logging in a 33.65-Ha Area in a Conservation Forest Area, Banyuasin Regency, Jambi

A 33.65-ha illegal logging was indicated in Nilo Dingin Village, Lembah Masurai Sub-district, Merangin Regency, Jambi Province. On top of being located in a conservation forest – Kerinci Seblat National Park (TNKS), the area of land clearing is close to a production forest. High-resolution satellite imagery shows sporadic small blocks of land clearing, indicating the expansion of the surrounding small-scale dryland farming area.

Secondary sources have verified that Nilo Dingin Village area (Sipurak Hook area) is one of the priority areas in the implementation of Role Model in Tenurial Conflict Handling for Conservation Area by TNKS in the effort to solve encroachment problems in TNKS. The Role Model seeks to restore encroached areas and generate alternative sources of livelihood for the community to remove the need for further encroachment. However, the people of the Nilo Dingin Village rejected the Role Model program, and land clearing still occurs in this village.

#5 Indications of Illegal Logging in a 19.50-Ha Area in a Production Forest Area, Bengkalis Regency, Riau

Indicated area (#5) is located in Bandar Jaya Village, Siak Kecil Sub-district, Bengkalis Regency, Riau Province. This indicated area is categorized as a peatland area. High-resolution satellite imagery shows selective logging over a19.50-ha area in the indicated area close to an Industrial Plantation Forest (HTI) concession.

Secondary sources from Siak Kecil Sub-district reported that the Directorate General of Law Enforcement of the Ministry of Environment and Forestry (Ditjen Gakkum KLHK) had arrested the perpetrators of illegal logging in the Limited Production Forest Area in Muara Dua Village in November 2018. Although the village in this report is different from the indicated area no. #5, this proves that there is a real risk of illegal logging in Siak Kecil Sub-district.

The Next Step

The Five Places to Watch are identified based on indications analyzed using various instruments such as GLAD Alert, Forest Area Status Map and Land Cover/Utilization Map. However, this analysis can be used in determining the areas where monitoring for illegal logging must be prioritized. To that end, the following steps need to be taken immediately.

1. Field Verification and Action to Prevent Expansion of Illegal Logging in the Five Indicated Areas

All five Indicated Areas are not the first in their respective regions to suffer from illegal logging. Rather, these are extensions/expansions from ongoing activities. These Indicated Areas are at risk of continued logging expansion into the surrounding forests. In addition, all five Indicated Areas also require urgent environmental damage mitigation due to the massive scale of illegal logging, critical land, and climate change risk in their respective regencies and/or districts.

As such, authorities in charge of forest protection at the Indicated Areas such as Pasaman Raya Protected Forest Management Unit (KPHL), Rokan Hilir Production Forest Management Unit (KPHP), Banyuasin Protected Forest Management Unit (KPHL), Bengkalis Production Forest Management Unit (KPHP), Station of Natural Resources Conservation (KSDA) Jambi, Directorate General of Law Enforcement of the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, the local Province Forest Service and the Police must collaboratively take action to prevent further illegal logging and illegal forest utilization. Community participation in providing information from the field may help in the verification process. If field verification is not conducted promptly, illegal logging will grow massively and the negative environmental impact will be inevitable. As the forest area that has been cleared and utilized for non-forestry activities grows larger, its management and restoration will become more challenging.

The third Indicated Area (#3) – Banyuasin Regency Protected Forest Area must be prioritized since the location has been featured in Places to Watch: Part Three and Part Two. This indicates continuous logging and possible expansion of areas where illegal logging occurs. Furthermore, Riau must be made a province of priority as it is home to two of the five places to watch in this fourth edition - the second Indicated Area (#2), Rokan Hilir Regency and the fifth Indicated Area (#5), Bengkalis Regency. Strict monitoring of illegal logging is also required in Riau due to the forest and land fires emergency alert status that is in effect until the end of 2019.

2. Upon Verification, the Handling Process Must Take into Account the Socio-economic Background of Local Communities

Illegal logging across the five Indicated Areas is closely associated with small-scale economic activities. As such, upon verification, the handling process must take into account the socio-economic background of the local communities. The handling mechanism may include logical and fair conflict resolution, social forestry, agrarian reformation and fair and logical law enforcement schemes. In addition, it is also necessary to trace the perpetrators back to the masterminds (intellectual players) who are reaping the ultimate benefits of illegal logging.


Footnote:

The local Places to Watch uses the method to identify areas in which illegal logging has been indicated used by the regular Places to Watch. Illegal logging is unauthorized logging within a forest area and authorized logging done in a way that deviates from the provisions of the permit as set out in Law No. 18 of 2013 on the Prevention and Eradication of Forest Damage. However, due to data limitations, Places to Watch currently only represents the first scope.

These areas are identified based on high alert under GLAD warning, a weekly tree cover loss alert. The modifications made by the local Places to Watch as compared to the regular Places to Watch are as follows:

Unlike in the regular Places to Watch, we use grids of 5x5 km and not 10x10 km, as 5x5 grids can better capture the causes of national forest losses. We crop a focused area for illegal logging without a valid permit, or with a valid permit but in violation of the prevailing regulations, with the following layers:

1. According to the Ministry of Environment and Forestry (KLHK), forest cover comprises primary and secondary forests. The forest cover data extracted from KLHK’s land cover data includes primary and secondary forest covers and excludes industrial plantation forests. The GLAD warning is overlaid with the forest cover to see indications of biophysical clearing in the area, regardless of the legal status of the forest. Source: http://geoportal.menlhk.go.id/arcgis/rest/services/KLHK accessed in October 2018

2. Forest area shows its legal status assigned by the related Ministry. This data is used to identify indications of illegal clearing in a forest area. Source: http://geoportal.menlhk.go.id/arcgis/rest/services/KLHK accessed in October 2018. Forest area is an area determined by the government through the Ministry of Environment and Forestry as a permanent forest that may not be used for non-forestry activities. Such area has 3 primary functions, namely conservation (for the preservation of plant and animal biodiversity and their ecosystem), protection (for the protection of life sustaining systems such as water, disaster mitigation, etc.) and production (for forest product productions). Logging is basically prohibited in conservation and protected forests, while it is authorized in production forests as long as adequate reforestation efforts are carried out. Production forest areas are divided into 3 categories of limited production, permanent production and convertible production forest areas. These three categories of production forest areas have different criteria and scopes of utilization, which start from the most limited to the most extensive. Convertible production forest area can be widely utilized, as it is an area reserved for the development of transmigration, settlement, agriculture and plantation – which requires forest area discharging for non-forest development.

3. Concession permit. This data covers permits for various concessions, including selective logging permits or Business License for the Utilization of Timber Forest Products – Natural Forest (IUPHHK-HA), Business License for the Utilization of Timber Forest Products – Industrial Plantation Forest (IUPHHK-HTI), Business License for the Utilization of Timber Forest Products – Community Plantation Forest (IUPHHK-HTR), village forest (HKm), social forest, social forestry, and forest area borrow-to-use permit. Under such regulations, clearing in such concessions is permitted so we use this layer to exclude legal land clearings. Source: http://geoportal.menlhk.go.id/arcgis/rest/services/KLHK accessed in October 2018.

Then, each of the 5x5 km grid is overlaid with the focus area and GLAD warning. The score for each grid is calculated based on the proportion of the number of GLAD warnings to the focus area for each of the 5-km grids. Then, we choose the top 10 areas with the highest resolution for further validation. The Queen's Case Neighborhood method is then used to detect a large number of diagonally and perpendicularly adjacent cells on the top areas with GLAD warning. This method groups 5x5 km adjacent cells into one cell group. The entire area may share the same specific cause of forest losses (for example due to mining, or clearings for plantation). Upon validation and identification of the cause for forest losses using images with the highest resolution, we pick the top 5 areas to be featured in this blog.

An initial literature review is subsequently done to provide additional information from secondary data on the developments of the illegal logging cases in the featured five places to watch. While the secondary data cannot be interpreted as the final verification for such indication, it can indicate the need for further verification.

1The GLAD warning from the University of Maryland via Global Forest Watch. The GLAD warning shows the weekly tree cover loss in a 30x30 meter area. Each pixel represents a 50% or more loss of tree cover in an area of 0.01 hectares, such as with this article.

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