Balikpapan, East Kalimantan. The fast rate of deforestation in East Kalimantan over the last few years has made it the country’s third largest carbon emitting region.
According to the East Kalimantan Climate Change Council (DDPI), the province emitted 255 million tons of carbon dioxide last year, behind only Riau (358 million tons) and Central Kalimantan (324 million tons).
Daddy Ruchiyat, chairman of the DPPI, said that just five years ago the province was the bedrock of the country’s natural forests and helped minimize the impact of carbon emissions.
“Now, we are the third largest emitter because more and more forests are turned into mines and residential areas,” he said in Balikpapan on Monday.
Daddy said the province’s carbon emissions increased by 1.4 percent annually because the local administration had allowed more forest conversion in recent years in a bid to make more money.
“The biggest contributor to the province’s emissions is forest conversion; we have fewer green forests. Aside from the legal conversion into mines and residential areas, we also have rampant illegal logging across the province,” he said.
Daddy urged the provincial administration to enforce a regulation requiring companies intending to open mining sites by clearing forests to implement adequate reclamation and reforestation programs.
“So, the companies must conduct a study on how much carbon is released, and accordingly, plant trees to absorb back the same amount of carbon released. All along, the administration is reluctant to enforce the regulation while the companies just play dumb,” he said.
Niel Makimuddin, the Nature Conservancy’s program manager, agreed with Daddy, saying that forest destruction in East Kalimantan had reached an alarming level because of unregulated conversion.
“We have raised deep concerns because the destruction continues, and nothing is done to stop it,” he said.
Niel also expressed alarm about the illegal logging that he said seemed unstoppable in the province.
“The combination of legal and illegal logging has created high deforestation levels, and created more carbon emissions,” he said.
East Kalimantan only has 4 million hectares of forest cover out of the province’s total size of 14.8 million hectares. Meanwhile, Fathur Roziqin, director of East Kalimantan’s Indonesian Environmental Forum (Walhi), said that carbon emissions had begun to create extreme weather and unpredictable changes in climate.
“The changes have been felt by our farmers and fishermen. They can no longer correctly predict the season and it negatively affects their ability to cope with climate behavior and to earn a living,” he said.
Fathur said the government should enforce the law, and join forces with civil society groups and local communities to protect the forests.