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 Tuesday, 14 January, 2003, 13:40 GMT
'Corruption' in Indonesia logging war
Deforested area of Tesso Nilo
Huge swathes of forest have been destroyed

Rampant corruption in Indonesia is hampering attempts to tackle the problem of illegal logging, according to a report.

Loggers in the east of Tanjung Puting national park (EIA)
Logging is said to be taking place openly
Indonesia's forests, home to endangered species, such as the orang-utan and Clouded Leopard, are being stripped.

Campaigners claim up to 70% of Indonesia's timber comes from illegal sources.

The report comes ahead of a donors' meeting in Bali next week, at which the issue of sustainable forest management is due to be discussed.

National scourge

Indonesia's forests are disappearing at an alarming rate. Even in protected areas, such as national parks, huge swathes of unique tropical habitat are being destroyed by illegal logging.

According to the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), government efforts to tackle the problem are being undermined by widespread corruption.

In its report, the EIA said officials from the police and judiciary are being bribed or intimidated by powerful timber barons who are continuing to exploit Indonesia's natural resources with impunity.

'Out of control'

The director of the agency, David Curry, said the situation had reached a critical point.

"It's completely out of control," he said. "If you go out into any forested area, you will see illegal saw mills, you will see illegal loggers.

"It's not difficult. They're absolutely everywhere. They're walking through police posts.

"No one's doing anything about this, other than taking their backhanders and letting business go on as usual."

The EIA is calling for greater international pressure to force the Indonesian Government to confront the issue.

It wants to see an independent forest crimes unit established, with the power to arrest and prosecute anyone found to be involved in illegal logging operations.

Sustainable management of Indonesia's forests is on the agenda of a meeting of international donors in Bali, next week.

The message from environmentalists is that without a genuine commitment to root out corruption, all promises of help are doomed to failure.

See also:

23 Aug 02 | Business
25 Jun 02 | Asia-Pacific
22 May 02 | Asia-Pacific
10 Mar 00 | Science/Nature
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