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Land and Resources, Environmental Issues

Environmental Management Act, islands of Indonesia, biosphere reserves, Illegal logging, marine biodiversity

The islands of Indonesia have an extremely fragile ecosystem. The coral reefs that fringe the country’s many islands are of great importance in preserving marine biodiversity. These reefs are threatened by overfishing, coastal development, marine pollution, and sediment from inland sources. In recent years, political turmoil in Indonesia has hampered efforts to preserve the reefs. Another major environmental concern is deforestation, which is a serious threat to wildlife habitat and causes soil erosion that degrades the health of rivers. From 1990 to 1995 Indonesia lost an estimated 54,220 sq km (20,930 sq mi) of tropical forest. The annual rate of deforestation from 1990 to 2000 was 1.2 percent. Illegal logging dramatically increased in the late 1990s. In 2001 the government of Indonesia banned the sale of timber from endangered hardwood trees, such as ramin trees. However, timber companies have been poorly regulated for many years, and the recent ban will be difficult to enforce.

Rapid urban growth in Indonesia has created a number of environmental problems. New and growing industries have harmed air and water quality, and expanding urban development has encroached on rural areas. The migration of rural people to cities has overtaxed groundwater supplies, and urban watercourses are often polluted with solid wastes.

These and other environmental problems in Indonesia have gained both local and international attention in recent years. A number of environmentally oriented, nongovernmental organizations have formed, including the Network for Forest Conservation in Indonesia (Skephi) and Wahli (Wahana Lingkungan Hidup Indonesia, or Indonesian Environmental Forum), an umbrella group for smaller environmental organizations. The government has made some attempts to address environmental concerns by creating a ministry for the environment in 1978 and by increasing environmental regulations. The 1982 Environmental Management Act makes the government responsible for resource management. The government’s Environmental Protection Authority (BAPEDAL) has increased its efforts throughout Indonesia’s provinces. Critics of the government, however, argue that many environmental agencies run by the Ministry for the Environment have unclear and overlapping environmental responsibilities. The government has declared six biosphere reserves under a program of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Indonesia has ratified a number of international environmental agreements on issues such as biodiversity and wetlands preservation.

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