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Rampant deforestation blamed for Langkat flash flood MEDAN - Government officials have joined environmental activists in blaming inconsistent forest management and poor law enforcement as the main causes of rampant deforestation that resulted in the flash flood which killed at least 103 people on Sunday. Hundreds are missing following the flood in Langkat regency, North Sumatra. "Yes. It's due to unprofessional management. We're not disciplined," Vice President Hamzah Haz said on Tuesday, commenting on the disaster.
Hamzah admitted that the blame lay not only with the forestry sector but also the mining sector, both of which harm the ecosystem. Hamzah said that the authorities must not hesitate to take harsh action against illegal logging, which plays a major role in the rampant deforestation in Sumatra. Citing Langkat administration reports, Coordinating Minister for People's Welfare Jusuf Kalla said that the flash flood in Langkat, located on the slopes of the Mount Leuser National Park (TNGL), was partly due to rampant illegal logging there.
"The (Langkat) regent reported that the flash flood also swept up logs that resulted in the deaths of scores of people," he told reporters. Apart from rampant deforestation, the floods were also said to be triggered by heavy rains from 10 p.m on Sunday until 1 a.m. on Monday. Suparwi, the Medan Meteorology and Geophysics Agency (BMG), revealed that his office recorded 66 millimeters of rainfall on Sunday, two mm on Monday and nine mm on Tuesday.
The average monthly rainfall in the area is 238 mm. The agency had earlier warned of possible heavy rains at the beginning of the rainy season, which started at the end of October. The Langkat administration said that the Mount Leuser National Park had lost some 40,000 hectares of its total of 788,000 hectares of land. However, environmental organizations have estimated that the park has lost some 22 percent, or 170 hectares of its land, due to illegal logging and illegal conversion of the park land into farmlands.
However the forestry ministry blamed the illegal development of houses on riverbanks as the source of problems causing the flash flood. Koes Saparjadi, the Director General of Nature and Forest Conservation, said that the Landsat satellite image revealed that forest around the site where the disaster occurred was still in a good condition. He concluded that the flash flood occurred because the upper side of the Bahorok river, one of five that flows through the regency, was possibly clogged up by soil due to the landslide.
"The conclusion followed reports that the flood swept up trees (not logs), so it was not (the result of illegal logging)," Koes was quoted by Antara as saying. Koes claimed that his ministry had asked the North Sumatra administration to remove illegal settlers from the Bahorok riverbank in 1998, however, several residents expressed opposition. He promised that his ministry would find out whether the disaster was purely a natural disaster or otherwise.
Koes also announced that his ministry has asked the Langkat administration to close the Bukit Lawang resort in Langkat temporarily in a bid to prevent more casualties. The disaster in the resort area is not the first of its kind in the country in the last couple of years. At least 26 people died when a flash flood and mudslide buried a hot springs resort, located around the forests of state-owned Perhutani, in Pacet, Mojokerto in East Java last December. Authorities had also cited illegal logging as the possible cause of the disaster.
Non-governmental organizations have repeatedly asked the government to be serious in clamping down on illegal logging. Indonesia has lost more than 75 percent of its forests over the past few decades, leaving only 60 million hectares today. In the past five years, some 43 million hectares of Indonesia's forests, or the equivalent of more than half of Kalimantan has been damaged. The World Bank predicts that if the current rapid pace of deforestation continues, Indonesia could lose Sumatra's forests in 2005, with Kalimantan to follow five years later.
The Indonesian Forum on the Environment (Walhi) raised the possibility of the role of a controversial road project in the disaster. The plan to connect Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam to North Sumatra by road, known as Ladia Galaska, includes the clearing of land in some parts of the Mount Leuser National Park.
"The project has increased illegal logging activities. It is true that the initial project is in Aceh, but we must remember that the ecosystem is like a net. If some parts are harmed, it would affect other parts," Walhi director Longgena Ginting said. Earlier, the Leuser Management Unit had warned that the project could damage between 200 square kilometers to 400 square kilometers of forest in the park.
Separately, the Indonesia Center for Environmental Law (ICEL) called on the central government to help local administrations to tackle illegal logging and illegal conversion of protected forests into commercial areas.



Posted in Weather @ 04 November 2003 00:04 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink






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