Pagaralam`s protected forest area reduced by 4,000 hectares

Pagaralam, South Sumatra (ANTARA News) - The protected forest area in Pagaralam city, South Sumatra, which used to be 28,000 hectares has experienced a reduction of 4,000 hectares across five districts, a local official said here Tuesday.

"Currently, the protected forest area in five districts in Pagaralam city has decreased from 28,000 hectares to 24,618 hectares," Head of Pagaralam city Forestry and Plantation office, Hasan Ibnu Barin aaid.

He aaid, several factors had caused forest destruction, namely encroachment, sedentary farming activity and the absence of clear boundaries between the protected forests and people`s settlements.

"For instance, in one weeks time there could be forest fires in several locations in South Dempo district , especially in areas with dense bushes," Hasan said.

He said the forest fires were deliberately started by some people for fun because they were living under forest undergrowth.

"It is also difficult for us to stop the forest burning because it is a tradition among the Pagaralam people to make coffee plantations by burning the forests. Moreover. many of them still practice the shift farming system in which they abandon a plot of farmland after four or five years or a peak harvest to move to another location," Hasan explained.

Hasan noted, based on data 2011 obtained by the office, the protected forest damage in Pagaralam was 7,750 hectares. But through the forest and land rehabilitation movement (Gerhan) program it had conducted a tree planting approximately 2,100 hectares since 2004.

"We are still doing the data collection and installation of burned land boundary stakes of protected forests with community forest areas along approximately 32 kilometers. Later when the boundary line has finally installed we will know the total area of encroachment," he said.

Meanwhile, the Pagaralam City Police Chief Abdul Sholeh admitted, there was a lot of obstacles encountered in preventing the forest and plantation burning, especially on public land since there is no local regulation which control it.

"We ask the Pagaralam city administration to form a local regulations on prohibition the forests and land burning, so the sanctions can be applied. It is not enough to appeal, but need firm action prescribed in the rules following a legal sanction," Chief Abdul Sholeh said.