Tsunami Rebuilding Could Deforest Sumatra, Green Groups Say

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To forestall logging of these forests, the report says, countries with large reserves of sustainable timber should contribute supplies. For instance, WWF is currently organizing its own shipments from the U.S. and Australia.

Canada and New Zealand are among other countries that should be able to provide timber, said Tessa Robertson, head of the forests program at WWF in the U.K.

"Southern Sweden has something like 15 million cubic meters (530 million cubic feet) of timber lying on the ground as a result of a hurricane last year," Robertson added. "That's another potential source of wood that could make quite a difference."

The report also recommends construction of low-cost housing that requires less timber than traditional buildings. Options include brick-wall structures or a system developed by Indonesia's Research Institute for Human Settlements that creates earthquake-resistant buildings from sustainable materials.

Indonesia's Ministry of Forestry has estimated that timber is needed for 123,000 homes in Aceh alone.

Illegal Logging

Indonesia has lost around 40 percent of its forest cover over the past 40 years due to extensive logging. Rates of illegal logging far exceed those of legitimate harvesting, according the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), an environmental nonprofit based in London and Washington, D.C.

EIA research suggests that around 80 percent of processed timber in Indonesia is logged illegally, with much of it exported abroad to countries such as China and Japan.

Robertson says the timber used so far for reconstruction in Aceh is being sourced locally. "There have been various moratoriums on logging in the region for a while, so it's very likely that this timber is illegal," she added. "There are hardly any forests remaining in Sumatra, anyway, so those that are there tend to be in protected areas."

Robertson says Sumatra's Gunung Leuser National Park is the closest area with significant timber resources to Aceh.

Gunung Leuser comprises 850,000 hectares (2,100,000 acres) of tropical rain forest. Largely because of its great diversity of species, the park was declared a World Heritage site last year by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Gunung Leuser's 3,500 recorded plant species include the world's largest flower, rafflesia, which can weigh up to 24 pounds (11 kilograms). The park is also home to more than 300 species of birds and some 130 mammal species.

WWF also identifies forested areas in Riau, Jambi, and North Sumatra as being at high risk due to reconstruction work.

However, Robertson says the scale of redevelopment required in Aceh presents a unique opportunity.

"We really have an opportunity to build one of the first properly sustainable communities in the developing world if we can get it right," she said. "It could be used as a model for other communities, or in responding to other disasters."

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