Every year, Indonesia loses 684,000 hectares of forests due to illegal logging, forest fires, forest encroachment and forest conversion.
According to data released by the World Food and Agriculture Agency (FAO) based on data from the Global Forest Resources Assessment (FRA), Indonesia ranks second highest in the world forests loss after Brazil.
The surprising fact is that deforestation in Indonesia also occurs in conservation areas. One of the conservation areas that are threatened by forest loss is the national park.
Indonesia is ranked the sixth largest number of national parks in the Asian continent with 50 national parks, after the People’s Republic of China, Thailand, India, Israel and the Philippines.
The characteristic of the national parks in Indonesia can be divided into three kinds, namely Biosphere Reserve, World Heritage Sites, and Ramsar Sites.
Although the laws and regulations in Indonesia have clearly stated that the utilization of national parks is very limited and must be through the government’s permission, but illegal logging throughout the national parks in Indonesia is still continuing.
The perpetrators of illegal logging in national parks are nothing but the people who are close to the location of the national park, such as local people and the national park officials themselves.
Why does Illegal Logging Happen?
Local people do illegal logging in national parks for several reasons.
The first reason is to provide the need of woods for themselves. Local people who live in the vicinity of the national park often meet the need for wood for the construction of houses and also for daily activities such as firewood.
They feel they have ownership rights to the woods in the national park because of the historical reason that they and their predecessors have been living in the vicinity of the national park for a long time.
The second reason of illegal logging activities done by local people is to earn additional income.
Many private companies are luring additional revenue to the local communities to cut and sell timber in the national park area.
The private sector does this because of the increasing need for timber each year. With this method, the private sector is not directly being a perpetrator of illegal logging but mediated by local communities.
The second perpetrator of illegal logging in the national park is the national park officials.
This case has been repeated several times in Indonesia. Perpetrators who are national park officers usually work with local communities or vice versa, resulting in syndication between officers, local communities, and private sectors.
The frequent instances of illegal logging driven by officers are due to the high level of corruption in Indonesia and the opportunity to earn additional income from illegal logging activities.
As reported by Tempo there has been illegal logging in Way Kambas National Park which one of the perpetrators is the national park guard.
How to Decrease Illegal Logging?
Based on the problems that have been stated above, a solution is needed through a more thoughtful and systematic approach in addition to law enforcement.
Local communities and the national park officials should be given the opportunity to earn additional income through conservation efforts, so they are not tempted to break the law.
One systematic and prudent approach to achieving this goal is through ecotourism development approach.
Ecotourism is a form of sustainable tourism that benefits the community, environment and local economy.
This may be achieved through various means such as employment for local people or programs where tourists contribute money or labor to community activities such as tree planting or conservation of local monuments or sites.
In general, ecotourism has the following characteristics:
- Possession of an environmental ethic,
- Willingness not to degrade the resource,
- Focus on intrinsic rather than extrinsic motivation,
- Biocentrism rather than anthropocentric,
- Aiming to benefit wildlife and the environment,
- Striving for firsthand experience with the natural environment,
- Possessing an expectation of education and appreciation (Devkota, 2013)
The ecotourism development is one of the primary tools used to promote economic development, particularly, in developing countries.
Ecotourism is considered as the fastest growing market in the tourism industry, according to the World Tourism Organization with an annual growth rate of 5%, worldwide and representing 6% of the world gross domestic product, 11,4% of all consumer spending – not a market to be taken lightly.
With this fact, ecotourism will increase the income of local community and the national park official while still preserving the nature.
By looking at the case of illegal logging in national parks as described above which one of the perpetrators is the local community, then through the development of ecotourism, at least three additional benefits can be obtained that can directly reduce illegal logging in the national park.
The first advantage is that ecotourism is a concept that emphasizes nature conservation efforts.
Forests as a core part of the ecosystem on the concept of ecotourism development not only considered as an economic commodity but also as one of the stakeholders who should receive the benefit from the economic activity that occurred.
This concept is rarely applicable to other developmental approaches. So through ecotourism-based development efforts, the forest will receive attention not only as an object that can not be logged illegally but also as an object that must be conserved.
The second advantage of why ecotourism can be a systematic means of reducing illegal logging is that ecotourism is one of the fastest growing types of tourism.
As explained above, ecotourism trends can be utilized as a rationale for local governments to undertake ecotourism development in national parks.
The third advantage is that ecotourism activities can directly provide employment opportunities for people around the forest and even provide the private sector opportunity to open a business around the forest.
With equitable economic benefits for all these stakeholders, it is expected to spark the spirit of stakeholders to conserve forests compared to cutting them down.
Why Ecotourism is a Systematic Means to Decrease Deforestation?
The development of national parks in Indonesia as the ecotourism destination is very possible.
This is based on the compatibility between the characteristics of the national park and the real condition of national park management in Indonesia with the principles of ecotourism.
Based on Law No. 5 of 1990, national parks have distinctly different characteristics compared to other types of conservation areas such as nature reserve areas, nature reserves, wildlife sanctuaries, and so forth.
The typical characteristic is the existence of native ecosystem managed through zonation system so that it can be utilized for the benefit of research, science, education, cultivation, tourism, and recreation simultaneously.
National parks have also become the basis of biodiversity conservation efforts on a national and international scale.
This will facilitate cooperation and promotion for ecotourism development purposes. Institutional of national parks in Indonesia have also been well developed.