Illegal Logging – History and Lessons from Indonesia (Abstract)

Yuichi Sato


This paper reviews the recent history of illegal logging in Indonesia and some lessons that can be drawn from the experience. In 1999-2000, several reports established the significance of illegal logging in Indonesia and addressed the magnitude of its impact on the natural environment, natural resources management, society, and the economy. EIA-TELAPAK’s report and video, “The Final Cut,” and its follow-up report prompted an international campaign against illegal logging in Indonesia that has yielded some significant results, including the Indonesian government’s re-measuring of the log export ban in 2002 and the listing of an endangered tropical tree species in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, Appendix III in 2001. Other reports tried to quantify the problem, although the data allowed only estimations. Scotland et al. 1999 estimated the suspected volume of illegal logging at 57 million cubic meters in 1998, an increase of 16 million cubic meters from the year before. Walton 2000 estimated the rate of deforestation (as much as 2.7 million hectares/year) and predicted the disappearance of lowland forest in Sulawesi, Sumatra, and Kalimantan within 10 years. Social and economic impacts include the high level of debt carried by wood-related industries, opportunity losses equivalent to a fiscal year’s foreign aid (about USD 6.0 billion), and the likely rise in unemployment (directly and indirectly affecting 20 million people) should the government reduce the amount of illegal logging, an outcome that could result in social unrest.

Lessons drawn from the author’s experience in Indonesia’s Department of Forestry (1998-2001) include the following: Illegal logging has increased during the rapid transition to democratization and decentralization, raising questions about the present level of legal preparation, personnel resources, and communication between central and local governments. Indonesia’s problems are not unique, so lessons may be learned and shared with China, Brazil, Russia, and African countries. Nor is illegal logging a single problem, but an issue which may benefit from consolidation of forest and wood industry policy. Finally, countermeasures have quickly progressed from the field level to the central and international level, including the cooperation of all stakeholders and the effective utilization of scientific information in policy-making.

Yuichi Sato
Mr. Yuichi Sato worked for Indonesia’s Ministry of Forestry as a coordinator for forest planning, based in Jakarta, from 1998 to 2001. He participated in the formulation of the Donor Forum on Forest (DFF) under the Consultative Group of Indonesia (CGI). He is now a government official in Japan; however, this paper reflects his personal opinion, not that of the Japanese government.

Read the full unabridged article by Yuichi Sato HERE

Kyoto Review of Southeast Asia. Issue 2 (October 2002). Disaster and Rehabilitation