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Indonesia grants slew of last-minute logging concessions on eve of moratorium

Indonesia’s Minister of Forestry granted nearly 3 million hectares of plantation forestry concessions the day before the country’s president was due to sign a decree establishing a two-year moratorium on new logging licenses, reports a new analysis by Greenomics, an Indonesian environmental group.

Greenomics says minister Zulkifli Hasan signed away 2.9 million hectares of forest land to 44 companies on December 31, 2010. Most of the concessions are on secondary forest lands, although some primary forest was also involved, according to Greenomics. Roughly 1.2 million hectares of natural forest was granted in Papua (Indonesian New Guinea), while 1.03 million hectares was located in Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo).

“Of the 1.2 million hectares [in Papua], 883,500 will be granted to 3 companies for the development of plantations to supply the pulp industry,” said Greenomics Indonesia Executive Director Elfian Effendi in a statement. “This means that the natural forest in these concessions will be felled to provide raw material for the pulp industry.”

Greenomics says forestry plantation licenses were also granted in Maluku, East Nusa Tenggara, West Nusa Tenggara, West Sulawesi, Central Sulawesi, North Sulawesi, West Sumatra, South Sumatra, Jambi, Gorontalo and Bangka Belitung.

“The new Minister of Forestry Decree was signed on 31 December 2010. So, it is reasonable to assume that it was intended to save the 44 companies from having to comply with the moratorium regulations.” said Elfian.

Indonesia has yet to approve the moratorium, which was due to take effect January 1, 2011 under the billion dollar forest conservation partnership signed last May with Norway. The moratorium is apparently being held up due to conflicting language between at least three different versions of the decree.

The Indonesian president’s climate change office did not immediately respond to request for comment.

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