Tsunami Rebuilding Could Deforest Sumatra, Green Groups Say

April 26, 2005

If Indonesia's tsunami survivors do not get an immediate and massive delivery of timber for reconstruction, the country faces devastation of what's left of its forests, environmentalists warned today.

The warning comes in a report published by the WWF conservation organization. WWF estimates that four to eight million cubic meters (140 million to 280 million cubic feet) of logs will be needed to rebuild Aceh in Indonesia over the next five years.

The WWF report was produced in partnership with the Indonesian policy-research institution Greenomics.

The reconstruction estimate includes housing, schools and other government buildings, and thousands of fishing boats. The low end of the estimate assumes the maximum use of building techniques that are less timber intensive, making more use of materials such as concrete.

The report says the demand for so much timber cannot be met by Indonesia's already ravaged and threatened forests. It called for the international community to make immediate donations of timber.

Aceh Province bore the full force of the tsunami four months ago. A series of giant waves triggered by a massive undersea earthquake off Sumatra island killed 240,000 people in the region and left more than 410,000 homeless. Entire towns and villages were swept off the map.

"Aceh faces the likelihood of further humanitarian and ecological disasters unless timber for reconstruction is immediately brought [in]," said Mubariq Ahmad, executive director of WWF Indonesia. "If the amount of timber needed for the reconstruction of Aceh was sourced locally, the result would be massive deforestation."

Further deforestation would threaten the wildlife of Indonesia's threatened tropical forests, which includes the Sumatran tiger, Sumatran rhino, and dwindling populations of orangutans, Ahmad said. Deforestation would also lead to flooding and landslides, causing "further tragedy for the Indonesian people," he added.

Flood Deaths

An official investigation into a flood that killed 300 people in Aceh in 2004 found it was caused by illegal logging in upland forests.

Millions of dollars in aid has been pledged worldwide since the tsunami disaster. Greenomics, based in Jakarta, Indonesia, agrees that part of the donations should be made in the form of sustainable timber from developed countries.

This option is much more rational than accelerating forest clearance in the name of Aceh's reconstruction, said Elfian Efendi, executive director of Greenomics.

Continued on Next Page >>


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