Death of an island. Save Yamdena's forests. Background information.
Indonesia gained independence from colonial rule in 1949 and is ruled by an authoritarian government that seized power in a 1966 coup and is supported by the military. Indonesia's tropical rainforests, 10% of the world's total, are home to more than 500 species of mammals, 1500 of birds, 7000 of fish, 1000 of reptiles and amphibians, and over 20,000 of plants (10,000 different types of trees). The rate of deforestation in Indonesia, however, is second only to that in Brazil, as Indonesia loses 7000-12,000 sq. km to export logging each year. The government's policy of shifting vast numbers of people from Java to the less populated outer islands also contributes to the loss of the forest. Yamdena Island is home to 80,000 people who make their living from traditional forest activities and fishing and claim ownership of the island's 435,000 hectares, two-thirds of which are covered by virgin forest. In 1971, the government declared Yamdena's forests a conservation area and designated 72,000 hectares of the oldest section a nature reserve. By 1991, however, the government granted a logging concession for more than half of the island's forests without consulting the islanders. The local community immediately launched a protest that was joined by other groups in Indonesia. Some villagers who demonstrated against the logging on the island were arrested, beaten, and tortured. Meanwhile, international pressure caused the government to ban logging by 1993. A subsequent study of the forests said that logging on Yamdena was neither environmentally nor economically sustainable. However, in July 1995, the new Minister of Forestry granted a logging concession to a government-owned company, and the islanders failed in their attempt to use the provincial courts to stop the logging. Logging continues while international campaigners are applying pressure on Indonesia to stop the logging.