Oil Palm Plantations as Logging Restoration Effort

We must not forget the dark history of Logging in Indonesia and we threw the “sin” of logging to oil palms plantation. To people living in the island of Kalimantan or to those who had visited Kalimantan before 2000, could feel the saddening economic condition of people of Kalimantan. Before the year of 2000, especially in the period of 1960 – 1985, logging in Kalimantan was intensively committed by the owners of Natural Forest Management Permit who were commonly people outside of Kalimantan.

Millions tons of round log exited Kalimantan for exporting or selling to Java. The uncontrolled logging at the time consumed 18.5 millions of hectares of forest that gave birth to Kings of Logs known before the year of 2000 thoughthe number was not as massive as the years before. Until 2013, a total of 27 hectares of land had been converted from former Natural Forest Management Permit to non forest status.

The result of this logging by Natural Forest Management Permit was all brought exiting Kalimantan to other regions especially Java Island. Kalimantan island in the New Order era suffered from capital drain as none of the logging result was reinvested to the island. Consequently, the former lands of Natural Forest Management Permit became underdeveloped, impoverished, dry, and dead areas. What remained were the debris of logging barracks, logging roads, former lands of Natural Forest Management Permit which had turned into bushes without inhabitants. In economy terminology, such phenomenon is known as “Ghost Town”. In order to cover the traces of logging, the New Order government at that time converted the lands to a non-forest areas in the form of abandoned lands and partly designated for transmigration areas.

After the down fall  of New Order and Reformation Era took place in 2000 and judging how vast the land was, the Mayors and Governors in Kalimantan island proactively promoted the converted land and invited investors to make use of the abandonded land for development sector including plantation sector. One sector that was rapidly developing utilizing these abandoned lands was oil palm plantations. The price of world palm oil that began to be profitable at the beginning of the reformation era made investment in oil palm plantations attractive to investors.

Different from the nature of logging that cut down trees irresponsibly, the development of oil palm plantation does the complete opposite, it grows trees. If logging drained sources and brought them outside Kalimantan, oil palm plantations brought sources in in the form of new investment to Kalimantan. The ingress of this oil palm investment plantations brought new “fresh air” to the economy of Kalimantan that it evolutionarily moved the driving force of the economy of Kalimantan region. The rise of oil palm plantations attracts the developments of wider economy sectors rapidly across Kalimantan.

As a result, the cities in the Province and regencies in Kalimantan were growing rapidly. Districts transformed into cities of regency. The vile logging barracks had changed into new centres of economy development in the outback of Kalimantan. In short, oil palm plantations revived the economy of Kalimantan.

Not only has the economy developed, abandoned lands turns green into oil palm plantations. Carbon dioxide released during logging is reabsorbed by oil palm plantations and then converted to oxygen, palm oil and biomass. Forests as the lungs of the ecosystem lost by logging, are now being replaced by better lungs – the oil palm plantations.  Oil palm plantations have and are reforesting the economy and ecosystem of Kalimantan. The process of social, economic and environmental restoration is underway and will continue in the future.

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