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Indonesia’s Innovative New Way to Fight Deforestation

The Guinness Book of World Records recently named Indonesia as the country with the highest rate of deforestation on the planet. In an effort to combat this environmental destruction and the resulting greenhouse gas emissions, Balikpapan city is now requiring residents who want to apply for a marriage or birth license to plant a tree. City officials see this new program as an innovative way to take on both deforestation and global warming.

Non-governmental organizations, however, are a bit more cautious. “From our perspective, those programs are good for raising public awareness,” Ade Fadli, head of Institutional and Resources Management Department for WALHI/Friends of the Earth Indonesia, told Ethical Traveler. “But it’s not enough to solve the forestry sector problems in Indonesia. Other good initiatives comes from wood farmers, who already plant trees, such as jati (tectona), ulin (Balian), or damar, for preparing wood for their families.”

The areas around Balikpapan city in East Kalimantan province have lost some of their forest cover to deforestation from the mining and timber sectors. According to Global Forest Watch, the country is losing approximately 2 million ha (833,000 acres) of forest every year through legal and illegal logging, clearance for plantations and agricultural estates, and fires.

Deforestation has led to increased pollution, flooding, and disease, and the loss of biodiversity and traditional culture for many Indonesians. However, the issue is complicated by economics, as the demand for wood from wood-based industries and to a lesser extent local use far surpasses a forest’s (or forest plantation’s) natural ability to replenish itself. In addition, Indonesia is moving rapidly toward a new system of “regional autonomy” where raising short-term revenue is a top priority, putting intensified pressure on forest resources in many regions.

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