Illegal logging discovered in West Papua by helicopter team

Merbau logs are loaded onto barge in Kaimana, West Papua, despite the company's permit being suspended © Greenpeace/Rante

Merbau logs are loaded onto barge in Kaimana, West Papua, despite the company's permit being suspended © Greenpeace/Rant

We’ve already seen some incursions into the forests of Papua and West Papua, mainly logging roads and small camps but also deforestation on a much larger scale near Jayapura, at the hands of palm oil producer Sinar Mas. Then, on Monday, our helicopter team discovered an area where illegal logging was taking place.

The team passed over the Kaimana area in West Papua where two logging companies had been operating, but had their permits suspended earlier this year. In July, the Indonesian police arrested senior executives of both companies – PT Centrico and PT Kaltim Hutama – for violating national forestry laws by logging outside the areas set in their permits.

While the helicopter team didn’t see any actual logging, they did witness logs being loaded onto a barge in two big log ponds (part of a river or estuary near the felling site where logs are held before being shipped out). With all permits for this area currently suspended, there should be no logging activities of any kind, and yet someone was preparing to transport logs downriver. And they were merbau logs, a highly vulnerable species of hardwood that also fetches a high price.

What we saw at the beginning of the week goes to show just how difficult it can be to protect these forests. Without proper management and policing, there are plenty of remote places where unscrupulous companies can operate with little fear of being discovered.

The solution? In the short term, a moratorium on all deforestation in Indonesia – we’ll be in Jakarta at the end of the month when our campaigners will be discussing this with ministers. But a moratorium is only a pause for thought, some breathing space to work on a longer term fix to the crisis. That fix needs to involve governments and funding from around the world, and our Forests For Climate proposal to fund ongoing protection for forests around the world explains how that can be possible.

posted by Jamie on board the Esperanza

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