Jakarta – West Kalimantan Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) Regional Executive Director Nicodemus Ale says that the acute flooding in Sintang regency needs to be understood in terms of the impact of deforestation.
Ale says that forest cover in Sintang has declined by 516,000 hectares over the last 10 years.
"The situation in Sintang itself from 2001 to 2020 is that it has lost 516,000 hectares of forest cover", Ale told CNN Indonesia TV on Thursday November 19.
The loss of this forest cover, said Ale, has largely been a consequence of concessions given to palm oil and mining companies. So, he believes that the government must immediately improve the licensing and spacial planning system.
According to Ale, the government must also revoke the business permits of companies operating in forest areas.
As has been reported, floods have inundated Sintang for the last month in what has been referred to as the worst floods there in the last 40 years.
As a consequence of the floods, several people have died, tens of thousands have been forced to seek shelter, there is no electricity and people are finding it difficult to find clean drinking water.
Ale took the opportunity to invite President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo to visit Sintang personally to observe the floods.
According to Ali, Widodo must take concrete action, not just issuing statements, especially since he has admitted that the floods in Sintang are because of years of environmental damage.
"Because the president has already made a statement saying that the environmental conditions in Sintang are quite bad and this has been happening for decades, we are inviting the president to immediately visit the location and take concrete action", said Ale.
Ali said that the environmental damage in Sintang is not just the responsibility of regional, municipal and provincial governments, but that the central government also has an obligation to deal with the issue.
He pointed out that the central government has control over the issuance of licenses such as Industrial Plantation Forest Business Licenses for the Utilisation of Timber Forest Products (IUPHHK-HTI) and Production Forest Concession (HPH) Permits.
"They issue licenses at the national level, not at the regional level", he said. (yla/ain)
[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Walhi: 516 Ribu Hektare Hutan di Sintang Hilang 10 Tahun Terakhir".]