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Tuesday November 8, 2005

Illegal timber trade still on


PETALING JAYA: Illegally sourced timber from Kalimantan in Indonesia is still entering the country despite stricter measures taken by the Malaysian and Indonesian governments.  

At least two huge Malaysian-owned timber companies have been implicated in plundering Indonesia’s forests, which are home to about 10% of the world’s remaining tropical forest cover and which support some of the most diverse ecosystems.  

Most of the timber sourced from West Kalimantan’s protected forests, namely the Betung Kerihun National Park and Danau Sentarum National Park, that is smuggled into Sarawak and Sabah end up in international markets. 

According to a Sarawak-based industry source, logs from Betung Kerihun National Park in the district of Kapuas Hulu in West Kalimantan are being transported by trucks and by river to Sarawak every day.  

“To avoid detection, Sarawak-based businessmen set up sawmills along the road from Lanjak to Badau on the Indonesian side of the border,” the source said. 

Last year, Indonesia banned the export of all sawn timber while Sarawak restricted entry of such timber to four designated points: Tebedu, Lubok Antu, Batu Lintang and Semantan, along the border.  

SMUGGLING ROUTE: Illegal timber is roughly sawn into blocks in Lanjak on the Indonesian side of the border before being transported by river into Sarawak.
The import of Indonesian round logs was banned in 2002, and square logs in 2003.  

Sawmills on the Indonesian side produce rough-sawn blocks which are smuggled into the country by trucks plying small roads at the porous border areas in Kalimantan and Sarawak. 

“Along the Lanjak to Badau road, a lot of timber is left by the road side, waiting to be sent over the border.  

“Malaysian companies take the wood because the large capacity of the wood processing industry far outstrips local timber supply,” a Kuala Lumpur-based industry source said. 

He said Indonesian wood, including Meranti, Kapur, Keruing, ramin and other commercial timber, was entering the country illegally at Sematan, Lubok Antu and Tebedu in Sarawak. 

The source said at least 100,000 cubic metres of illegal timber were being moved through the port of Tarakan, on East Kalimantan, into Sabah every month. 

Several of Indonesia’s national parks are located at the border with Sabah and Sarawak.  

The areas rampantly targeted for timber are: the Betung Kerihun National Park (800,000ha), Danau Sentarium National Park (132,000ha) and Kayan Mentarang National Park (1,360,500ha).  

Others like Tanjung Putting National Park (400,000ha) and the Kutai National Park (198,629ha) have not been spared either. 

“Pictures taken and investigations on the ground carried out earlier this year showed that the illegal trade is still rampant. We have followed the trail to where the logs are felled in protected areas right across the border,” the source added. 

As most of Borneo’s major rivers originate in the uplands, there is fear that the rampant illegal logging activities might take their toll on water supply as well as affect the ecological and economic stability in the lowlands on either side of the border.  

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