Common section

Chapter Eleven

Resources and the Future


Any country with a valuable, renewable, but exhaustible natural resource should strive to behave prudently and aim for sustainable production. Unfortunately, the prevailing economic paradigm thwarts such policies because the proximal and easily-achieved aim is to maximise the present profits that can be gained from the investments it has made. The same money invested in the forestry industry could of course be invested in some alternative industry or business with a higher rate of return on the money invested. The difference between the size of the two returns is known as the opportunity cost and represents benefits forgone. Benefits, particularly environmental benefits, may continue well into the future from an investment made today. The value of the future benefits are to be discounted by a certain percentage, currently 9% in Indonesia, which takes into account the cost of borrowing money, the likely rate of inflation, as well as attendant risks. Thus, benefits 20 years from now are worth very little under the prevailing economic theory.

Bodies concerned with forestry, such as FAO, quote figures for timber production, whereas forestry production can only really be said to exist in plantations. Figures represent instead the harvest of accumulated past production, the supply base of which is rapidly becoming smaller. Tropical timber is outside the rules of supply and demand economics since the most valuable and often traded trees take about 100 years to grow (Guppy 1983, 1984).

Any resource manager is faced with one basic decision: to exploit on a sustainable basis, or to mine the resource with no aim to renew the resource in order to take an early profit to invest in some other project or business.1 If you conserve your stock you might expect an annual return of Rp x, but you might decide to convert the entire forest into cash totalling Rp y which you can immediately invest elsewhere with a rate of return of i % per year. The annual income from the second strategy is thus Rp yi. Your decision will depend on the relative values of x, y and i. Investment on monetary capital usually provides a return of at least 10%, but an area of forest will take at least 70 years to recover its full value even after careful selective logging (i.e., an average return of 1.4% /yr that can be cashed only at the end of the period), and so it is clear that care and long-term conservation are extremely hard to argue in an economic sense. Plantations produce a greater rate of return than forests, but since this is still lower than normal financial rates, there is little enthusiasm to invest in them (Anon. 1986a). This is why there are such pressures on the forests from licensed and unlicensed loggers. The rapid consolidation of forests into tangible monetary gain is quite the most rational path to follow under prevailing economic theory.

One of the main drives behind the policies controlling the forestry industry is the generation of foreign exchange, outside the oil and gas sector, in order to pay back loans given by multi- or bi-lateral agencies for development projects. It is also very important to those provinces with no oil or gas reserves; for example, over 95% of the income generated in Central Sulawesi is from forestry. The timber, in various forms, is sold relatively cheaply (certainly cheaper than its true cost which should include the replacement cost) to developed countries and so the consumers must accept some culpability in the loss of forests.

In 1984 the International Tropical Timber Agreement (ITTA) was signed in Geneva under the umbrella of UNCTAD2 which brought together both the producers, of which Indonesia is one of the most significant, and the consumers, Japan, United States and Europe. The cornerstone of that agreement is the intention to "encourage the development of national policies aimed at sustainable use and conservation of tropical forests and their genetic resources, and maintain the ecological balance in the regions concerned". The headquarters of the International Tropical Timber Organization was hoped to have been sited in Indonesia, but Yokohama, Japan, was eventually chosen. Japan consumes over half of all the tropical timber traded on the international market.

The ITTA recognized, therefore, that a balance could be found between the economic and ecological aspects of forest development. Two likely means by which this balance will be sought are:

• the use of little-know and little used species of tree that could increase the economic returns from an area of forest that is likely to be felled in succeeding years, and

• the development of plantations (Johnson 1985).

In addition to the timber species already exploited, there are many tree species whose potential for timber, fibre or cellulose remains unex-ploited (Whitmore 1980). People of rural areas generally have a deeper understanding of the uses and value of forest plants, but knowledge of these can be lost within the timespan of a generation (Sastrapradja and Kartawinata 1975).

Plantations might succeed from a number of points of view, but if they comprised just a few species of trees then the problems of genetic resource depletion and wildlife requirements will not have been addressed. In the past the hardwood trees of tropical forests have been unsuitable as a raw material for paper products. New technology has changed this, however, and as literary rates increase, so more paper for books, and magazines is required. If future generations of schoolchildren and students are not to suffer because of paper shortages, it is important that extensive pulp plantations be established, preferably on land that is currently deforested and unproductive. Certain machines are able in just one minute to reduce an entire forest tree to chips for use in pulp, paper, particle or fibre board (Myers 1984a). The efficiency of these machines clearly makes their use in normal logging operations desirable, although smaller versions that could utilize the wood wasted and otherwise burned at small sawmills would be a bonus. The quantities so produced would be insufficient for export but would make a sound base for local carton manufacturing. The processing of all timber in land clearance schemes is neater and tidier, but considering that much of the nutrient capital of the forest is in the living plants, their removal could lead to long-term agricultural problems on the already marginal lands.

Sustainability is desired but this is a serious problem in the exploitation of all forest products. Sustainability is the key but to achieve it will require significant and possibly painful economic and social changes in priorities and policies. There were fears voiced over fifty years ago that rattan canes were being exploited too rapidly (van de Koppel 1928). The enormous national and international trade in rattan and rattan products has resulted in over-exploitation of rattan stocks and there are probably few areas, reserves and national parks notwithstanding, that have not been visited by rattan collectors. Sustainable collection is possible but much more needs to be known about growth rates under different light conditions, the importance of supports, the difference between those species that sprout from their base when the stem is cut and those that die. Sprouting success is also controlled to some extent by the age of the rattan and perhaps whether it is flowering or fruiting. Under present conditions certain species that do not sprout are generally cut before they fruit, may be in serious decline.

Compared with the single-operation timber operations currently sanctioned, the continuous harvesting of timber and minor products is ecologically sounder, much less destructive and of a greater advantage to local economies but, as stated above, the support of local economies is not a primary objective of forestry policy. Much greater emphasis could be placed on research into polyculture forests combining commercial hardwoods, softwoods, fruit trees, rattans and game.


One thousand years ago the great Maya civilization in what is now southern Mexico, Guatemala and northern Belize collapsed after enjoying some 1,700 years of plenty. The collapse was rapid and was precipitated by the agricultural patterns imposed by the Spanish conquerors and the soil erosion resulting from this.

A high rate of soil loss is not only a long-term threat to agriculture, it also reduces water quality necessitating extra treatment if it is to be used in water supplies, reduces the diversity and richness of aquatic life (p.342), accelerates sedimentation in check dams, reservoirs and rivers, and this in turn raises the level of riverbeds which aggravates flooding, and deleteriously affects coastal fisheries, particularly those associated with coral (p. 241).

As populations increase, so more and more people are forced to move onto increasingly marginal land. Such people are generally from the poorest sections of society without the knowledge, or even the motivation, to prevent the degradation of their environment. Ultimately these people will move, either because the government offers them job opportunities in the lowlands, or because the land they farm becomes exhausted. The land they leave is unproductive, and its rehabilitation would benefit upland, lowland and coastal environments. Watershed rehabilitation is generally left behind, however, while shorter-term development priorities in the lowlands are met.

If job opportunities cannot be offered, the practices and productivity of the upland farmers have to be improved, erosion and floods must be controlled and certain areas may have to be replanted and designated as protection forests. These different initiatives can take at least a decade, however, before they show any real positive impact on the environment (Spears 1982).

In the 1950s and '60s many villages in Sulawesi were suffering from the cumulative affects of bad land management. The land was hot, bare and, due to alang-alang grass, was difficult to cultivate. In one such village, Tabbingjai, in Gowa near the southern tip of South Sulawesi, a man named Solle with no formal schooling took it upon himself to plant hillsides at 1,200 m a.s.l. with the tree Acacia decurens.3 He prepared a nursery and explained the long-term benefits of what he was attempting to do to other villagers who were, at first, skeptical and mocking. He later organized the building of two 20 m x 4 m check-dams across rivers to capture sediment and retard water runoff, and planted Eucalyptus seedlings around the Acacia trees in order to supply the wood the villagers needed (Anon. 1986b). All this was achieved with no government assistance or subsidy. In all he has been responsible for the planting of over 1,000 ha of unproductive uplands, and he was presented with a Kalpataru 'Environmental Pioneer' Award by President Soeharto on World Environment Day 1986. The previous year the same award was given to La Ode Muhammad of Wantimoro, Southeast Sulawesi who had organised villagers to replace alang-alang with coconuts and coffee.

Of considerable significance to watershed management is the role the World Bank had in encouraging the establishment of the 300,000 ha Bogani Nani Wartabone National Park from the Dumoga, Bone and Bulawa reserves to protect the watershed of the Dumoga valley. The wide, flat Dumoga valley is a former lake bed and the potential of its 13,000 ha of irrigable fertile soils could only be realized if the quality and quantity of the water supply could be maintained. Never before had the World Bank set such stringent conditions for an irrigation project or made such a sizeable loan for the development of a National Park although various parks, reserves and endangered species have benefited from World Bank projects (Goodland 1985). The protection of the forest also safeguards a large proportion of the animals and plants of North Sulawesi (Goodland et al. 1984; Wind 1984). The danger posed by illegal occupants of the Park was recognized and the local government and the Conservation Office were actively involved in their eviction in 1983, and subsequent resettlement on the south coast. Various recommendations for a system of buffer zones have been made (e.g., Anon. 1983; Wegman 1983) but no Acts, amendments or regulations have been passed by the central government that would legalize such demarcations.

The environmental conditions set by the World Bank brought together the needs of development and conservation. The World Bank loan included funds for the protection of the forests as well as for the building of a research laboratory.

The argument is often heard that the replacement of wildland forest with rubber or fruit trees preserves water and soil. This is certainly not always the case. In one study of the hydrology of a plantation area it was found that storm flows doubled, low flows decreased to one quarter and soil loss at least tripled compared with the conditions under the original forest. Average rates of soil loss on undulating land covered with forest in West Java were found to be only 0.2-10 t/ha/yr, yet the figures from under dense but uniform tree plantations were 20-160 t/ha/yr, and from pasture 200 t/ha/yr. The most dramatic impacts are experienced while the forest is being cleared and before the replacement trees have produced a continuous canopy (Wiersum 1979; Hamilton and King 1983).

Watersheds can be managed such that low and high flows are more predictable and water yield better meets human needs. Ephemeral streams in degraded areas can be converted to permanent streams through a well researched rehabilitation programme. Excess water can be reduced by planting more vegetation and improving soil infiltration. This sort of manipulation requires the very careful assessment of at least ten years of rainfall and flow data.

Suspended sediment loads from watersheds generally increase with the amount of disturbed land, or land under cultivation. For example, the Toraut watershed encloses a well-forested National Park and the maximum suspended sediment concentrations recorded is 350 mg/l with a total suspended sediment load equivalent to a soil loss of 14 t/ha/yr (Walang 1984). By contrast, the maximum suspended sediment and total suspended load for two disturbed watersheds near Manado, the Tondano and Kinilow-Malalayang, were 1,290 mg/l and 5.2 t/ha, and 1,100 mg/l and 2.8 t/ha respectively (Molenaar 1984; Mantalalu 1985). The sediment discharged from the Tondano River into Manado Bay settle over 1 km from the shore (Molenaar 1984).

Rivers flowing into Lake Tempe have long been contributing large amounts of sediment, causing the voyager James Brooke, to write in 1840 that, "it (Lake Tempe) is filling up." This is still the case today, but when sediment outflow via the Cenrana River is also considered the net sediment accumulation is only 1 cm/yr (Anon. 1979a). At this rate, it will be approximately 320 years before the lake disappears at low water season and 950 years at high season.

Lake Tondano itself is silting up at the rate of 20 cm/yr due to sediment inflow from the many inlets and erosion from surrounding, agricultural activities (Anon. 1980a).

The massive reforestation programs in many tropical countries including Indonesia were founded to a large extent on the popular belief, generated in the West, that these would inevitably benefit groundwater aquifers and create more reliable flows during the dry season. A careful recent review of watershed studies found, in fact, that there was overwhelming evidence that groundwater levels are lowered and stream yields reduced following reforestation, and both these effects are more pronounced in the dry or growing season. It is true that the severity of local flooding is reduced and delayed, but as the actual stormflow volume may not be any less, there may be no impact on downstream flooding (Hamilton and King 1983).

This is not to say that reforestation is a wasted effort. Its major contribution is in the reduction of rates of soil erosion but if attention is not paid to erosion from road building, site preparation, site maintenance, and the eventual harvesting of the wood products, then the benefits will be far less marked. Reforestation is most frequently conducted on steep land but at least as valuable is the establishment of forested strips some 25 m wide along rivers, although this can cause considerable problems of land ownership, compensation and maintenance.


As the disturbance of forests proceeds, so smaller and smaller pockets of relatively pristine vegetation are formed and consequently these contain smaller populations of animals and plants. The study of island biogeography (p. 52) is not yet twenty years old and academic arguments continue over what predictions the mathematical models can actually make about the extinction and colonization of species in different-sized areas of land, and therefore what shapes and forms of management are theoretically best for nature reserves (Cole 1981; McCoy 1982; Harris 1984).

As far as Sulawesi is concerned, the subject of nature reserve design is largely one for academic debate. The question of what percentage of species will become extinct in different-shaped reserves in 50, 500 or 5,000 years' time is not of great relevance in Sulawesi when it is by no means certain how much of its reserves will be intact in even 25 years' time. The shapes of protected areas do not generally conform to the neat models of the theories (Gorman 1979) because the design of reserve boundaries has been set primarily by patterns of human settlement. In Sulawesi today the major priority is simply maintaining the integrity of reserves against the pressure of legal and illegal forms of habitat disturbance. Each day, the mature-phase forests are being destroyed at a vastly faster rate than they are being added to by the process of succession from building-phase forests (p. 359). Anyone acquainted with the major Sulawesi reserves knows that not only nonreserved areas are being destroyed, but that incursions into reserved areas are frequent, in the form of logging, settlement, and other exploitation.

During the last few years, attention has begun to focus on the rather more pragmatic problem of extinction. Extinction is now no longer viewed as an event, but rather as a process that can be observed and understood. To avoid extinction, the population of a species must be large enough to maintain a sufficient proportion of its genetic variation to avoid the deleterious effects of inbreeding. Thus the concept of 'minimum viable population' has evolved, and this is of most concern for large, wide-ranging animals, and for plants that provide some important or critical resource for a significant number of other species. It is true, of course, that any population, whatever the size, is subject to the possibility of extinction through chance events such as epidemic diseases or rapid environmental deterioration, but given the insurmountable problems of quantifying the unpredictable, these factors are not generally considered.

It has been ascertained that the effective size of an absolute minimum viable population is about 50 randomly-mating adults living in a population with a one-to-one sex ratio. With an effective population of 50, however, the genetic variation remaining after 100 generations will be only 36% of the original, and the additional variance due to mutation would be negligible. It has therefore been proposed that an effective population of 500 randomly mating individuals is the minimum size of a population that would enable the species to adapt to environmental changes (Wilcox 1986).

An 'effective population' of 50 is not the same as 50 individuals nor necessarily the same as 25 breeding animals of each sex. Many animals live in social groups which are not simply pairs of adults. The effective number, N, in a group or population can be calculated from the actual number present as follows: where Nm and Nf are the number of breeding males and breeding females respectively (Frankel and Soulé 1981).

To see how this theory can be used in practice, one can take the moor macaque Macaca maura of southern Sulawesi as an example. This is probably the Sulawesi primate most threatened by forest loss. Only about 10,000 live in about 500 km2 of protected forests (p. 433) (MacKinnon 1986). A group of these macaques comprises about 16 individuals of which two would be breeding males and six would be breeding females. Using these numbers in the equation above gives an effective group size of six. If one desires to protect an effective population of 500, then a total of 83 (500/6) groups with 1,333 (83x16) individuals are required. The macaques live at a density of about 20/km2 and so the area needed for 1,333 of them is 67 km2 (1,333/20). This is clearly less than the area already protected but, lest complacency take root, it is important to remember that the discussion concerns populations not just total numbers. A road between two forest areas is obviously not an important barrier to a population, but an expanse of agricultural land is sufficient to separate different populations. The next step is, therefore, to determine the size of each contiguous, or essentially contiguous, forest block to check that areas of 67 km2 still exist and are being adequately protected. Since this macaque is the largest of the endemic animals found in the forests of southern South Sulawesi, adequate forests for its survival should be adequate for most of the others. Some plants, particularly dioecious species with separate male and female individuals, may need still larger areas to shelter their minimum viable populations.

The approach described above provides a guide to the areas of forest required by species, but it is based largely on theory rather than the results of scientific experiments. Rather firmer support will in the future be provided by the results of the world's largest environmental experiment. An area of 600 km2 in Brazil has been guaranteed protection for 30 years, and a system of different-sized patches of forest is being established. Some patches will be just 1 ha in area, others will be 10 ha, 100 ha, 1,000 ha, and the largest will be 10,000 ha. The rate, order and means of extinctions of the species within these patches are being monitored by teams of scientists as the patches are gradually isolated from neighbouring forest areas. This pioneering work will provide a firm basis from which recommendations regarding the area of forests required to safeguard the principal ecological charcteristics of an area can be made. Luckily, it is not necessary to wait 30 years for all the results. Already it is clear that the 'edge effect' or the influence of the disturbed ecosystem outside the forest penetrates very deep, about 0.5 km, inside the forest (Lewin 1984). Thus, in the case of the macaques above, it might be necessary to enlarge the areas required for the minimum viable population to allow for a 0.5 km boundary of edge-affected forest.


The planet Earth supports about 35 million species of animals and plants (Erwin 1982; Myers 1983, 1984a) each of which has a certain range of genetic variation. It is likely that at least two-thirds of all species occur in tropical regions and most of these are confined to the rain- or moist-forests. So about 40% of all living species live in these forests which themselves account for just 7% of the earth's surface. One of the other most species-rich environments is coral reefs.

Periods of mass extinctions have dotted the earth's history and these mark boundaries in the geological time scale (p. 3). In the last 500 million years there have been six mass extinctions of which the worst occurred 240 million years ago and resulted in the loss of perhaps 95% of all marine organisms. These events were sudden when viewed against the age of the earth. For example, the loss of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago took about 2 million years. After the extinctions there was no genetic evolution of species. Instead, there was a lag of several million years before species diversity climbed up towards previous levels.

The rate of mammal species extinctions has increased from about 0.01/century during most of the Pleistocene, to about 0.08 during the late Pleistocene, to 17 from 1600-1980. The higher rates were caused by neolithic hunters or climatic change and the hunting and commerce encouraged by European expansion. The extinction rate of mammal species in the years between 1980 and 2000 could be about 100 per century and one of the predominant causes is habitat disruption (Wolf 1985).

The destruction of forests, coral reefs and other natural ecosystems by their conversion to other land uses or the over-intensive or careless exploitation of resources that they support, must be leading to a significant loss of species. Figures frequently quoted are that one species per day is being lost at present, and that an average of 100 species per day will be lost between now and the end of the century as the human population increases. If people have no option other than to follow uncontrolled and unrestrained extensive agricultural techniques, then the natural ecosystems will suffer. If the government will underwrite and support sustainable intensive agriculture, however, then the impacts on natural ecosystems will decrease. Agricultural development and conservation of species will, in this case, proceed hand in hand.

No one would dream of driving a road through the National Archives or a major museum or library, yet the loss of the majority of lowland forest, for example, and the resultant loss of species is akin to that. A major difference, however, its that the items in a Sulawesi lowland forest have not been catalogued let alone classified and studied with a view to development or their intrinsic significance.

The arguments for conservation can be grouped in two categories as follows:


• the maintenance into perpetuity of commercially valuable renewable resources such as timber and fish;

• the protection of soil and water supplies;

• the stability of climate and atmosphere;

• maintenance of plants and animals of use in the improvement of present and future food and medicinal needs;

• the needs of research and education; and

• the development of tourism and recreation.

Social and Moral

• to maintain the quality of life;

• the acceptance of a moral responsibility not to leave less to future generations than we ourselves received; and

• national pride (Anon. 1982a).

At the beginning of the conservation movement, the arguments used to seek support and money for conservation work tended to concentrate on the social and moral matters. Later, particularly in Africa, the economic benefits of tourism were stressed. Nowadays attention is drawn to the wide range of economic benefits from conservation policies. The subject was included in an influential document, The World Conservation Strategy, published by the IUCN.4 The Strategy has three key components:

• the maintenance of essential ecological processes which move energy, materials and nutrients through ecosystems;

• the preservation of genetic diversity; and

• the sustainable use of species and ecosystems (Anon. 1980).

Thus, species are seen as an insurance and an investment for the

future; the options for which must be kept open. Where the use of a species is unknown, it is argued that a future use may be found, or that the species may be a vital component in an ecosystem.

Species can have unexpected uses. For example, the horseshoe crab, an ancient relative of spiders sometimes found around the coasts of Sulawesi, has bright blue blood which congeals rapidly when exposed to even minute quantities of bacterial endotoxins. This is used to test the purity of fluids intended for injections, and also in identifying a serious form of meningitis. The crested macaque Macaca nigra of North Sulawesi is the best human model known for diabetes research. The structure of the skull and vertebrae of woodpeckers have given insights to the design of crash helmets. A woodpecker generally feeds by hammering on tree trunks with its bill to find insect larvae, and the speed of the head on impact with the tree has been calculated to be about 300 km/hr; enough to kill any human. Also, the wing movements of chalcid wasps have assisted the design of improved helicopter rotors (Myers 1983). How much effort has really been made to determine the potential of other species? Is anyone bold enough to state that any species will, with all certainty, prove to be of no practical benefit to humankind?

These arguments related to economics are based on the known uses of certain wild species, but they cannot be used in regard to all species (Collar 1986). The potential (and admittedly unlikely) utility of the elegant sunbird Aethopyga duyvenbodei endemic to Sangihe Island (p. 51), for example, will not be accepted by those charged with increasing the domestic production of coconuts on Sangihe. This small bird may indeed have been an essential species in the functioning of the Sangihe forest—but the forest has all but been replaced by coconut groves. Economic values are all relative values, and even if we could put a value on the sunbird, its value may be less than that of coconuts. Thus, relying on economic arguments provides no security for the survival of a species. It is clear, however, that the Government of Indonesia does not only listen to economic argument. It supports the large Department of Religion because it recognizes the central importance of spiritual health.

It can be concluded from the above that the ultimate reasons for species conservation are moral and religious.5 No one wants species to become extinct, and no religious code would sanction planetary stewardship that resulted in extinction. The only secure value for a species is an absolute value, in the same manner that the sanctity of human life is recognized as having an absolute value (Collar 1986; Ehrenfeld 1986; Naess 1986). The desire to conserve species for their own sakes is sometimes regarded as outmoded, but there is a growing reaction against the economic imperatives of some conservation arguments because, if these alone are followed, a large number of species will not be with us much longer.

When a plant becomes extinct it is likely that a number, perhaps tens, of species that depend on that plant at some stage of their life cycle will become extinct, too. As the areas of natural ecosystems are reduced so the equilibrium number of species decreases (p. 56). Some of the doomed species may not become extinct for a century or more but the damage will have been done (Myers 1985). The loss of half of an area is likely to lead to the extinction of 10% of its species.

Conflict arises, of course, when the absolute value of an animal or plant species comes up against human life. Indeed, the necessity of choosing between species—which ones will be made target species of conservation programs and which will be passed over—may be closer than we think. The term used for this choice is triage6 (Lovejoy 1976; Myers 1984b).

This book brings into planners' hands, perhaps for the first time, the information that, for example, some of the birds endemic to the Sangihe-Talaud Islands, or fishes endemic to lakes in Central Sulawesi are on the brink of extinction. Any plan to develop the last areas of scrub on Sangihe, or a fisheries project for Lake Poso, could push some species over the brink into the oblivion of extinction. Hopefully the arguments for species' conservation will persuade the planners that the approval of plans that would relegate species to the history books would be unacceptable, with the sole exception of the planned project alleviating human suffering in a manner that could not be achieved by any alternative scheme.

The basis for conservation in Indonesia is enshrined in the 1945 Constitution of the Republic of Indonesia; specifically Article 33 in Chapter XIV which states that: "Land and water and the natural waters therein shall be controlled by the State and shall be made use of for the greatest welfare of the people". It should be noted that the term 'welfare' in the spirit of the Constitution, concerns not just economic benefits, but also spiritual health and intellectual life. The Broad Guidelines on State Policy are developed by the People's Consultative Assembly and are held to be the expression of the desires of the Indonesian people as interpreted by that Assembly. Part of the section of those guidelines concerned with long-term development states that: "Rational use of Indonesia's natural resources is necessary in the execution of development. Exploitation of these natural resources should not destroy environmental living conditions and should be executed by an overall policy that takes into account the needs of future generations". Finally, the Environmental Management Act of 1982 states that forests are the primary means of maintaining harmony between people and the environment, and in recognition of that, "Everyone is obliged to conserve the environment and prevent as well as intervene against damage and pollution". Lists of specific legislation from both the colonial and the independence eras can be found elsewhere (Anon. 1985a; Hardjasoemantri 1985). A major problem, however, is that such statements have not been tested in courts of law, and so the legal interpretation is not certain.


Destruction of tropical forests, and particularly lowland forest, represents an extremely serious global loss of plant and animal genetic resources. Like the extinction of species, the loss of genetic resources is irreversible. This is of concern because this variation is the raw material not just for evolution, but also for the improvement of domestic and cultivated animals and plants, the development of industrial and medicinal products. As such, genetic resources play an essential role in world economic productivity. If their availability and diversity are reduced or lost, the effects on humans and their growing needs will be severely felt. Anyone who has the slightest doubt that conservation of genetic resources is one of the highest environmental priorities should consult some of the many papers and books on the subject (Anon. 1980; Frankel and Soulé 1981; Ehrlich and Ehrlich 1982; Jacobs 1982; Prescott-Allen and Prescott-Allen 1982; Myers 1983,1984a, b, 1985; Ayensu et al. 1984; Wolf 1985; Ehrenfeld 1986).

While complete disappearance is the most dramatic fate for a species, the loss of races or unique populations is also serious since the genetic pool available for further evolution is eroded. This is important for species of known or potential economic use, since genetic diversity is the property of a species upon which improvement in crops and domesticated animals is based. The preservation of genetic diversity is essential if continued improvements in nutritional quality, taste, pest resistance, etc., in domesticated crops and animals are to be sought, if new species are to be domesticated and if natural compounds useful in the drug and chemical industries are to be found. Crop breeders cannot work without stocks of genetically diverse wild species.

Natural (rather than synthetic) plant compounds are extremely important in the medicines taken by Indonesians. This does not just apply to the herbal remedies most commonly encountered in villages, but also to the drugs prescribed by doctors. About 40% of all drug prescriptions in the U.S.A. are compounds of natural plant origin and the figure for Indonesia is probably similar to that.

The role of wild plant species in the drug industry is somewhat enigmatic. The role of plant compounds in current drugs is well known, so why are the powerful drug companies not campaigning at least as loudly as conservation organizations for the wise management of watersheds to save the wealth of wild species? To answer this question for the purposes of this book, letters were sent to the heads of the ten major pharmaceutical companies operating in Indonesia requesting clarification. Only four replies were received. One company, Pfizer, was established on the success of a world-wide screening of soil samples that resulted in the discovery of the antibiotic oxytetracycline (Terramycin) (I.R. Young pers. comm.). The opinion was generally held that screening plants for potentially useful compounds is very expensive and has a very low success rate. For these reasons and because such screening is both complex and interdisciplinary, the research needs to be centralized. For most companies this means research outside Indonesia. P.T. Burroughs Wellcome Indonesia alone appears to be actively engaged in the collection, analysis and appraisal of medicinal plants from Indonesia (R.C. Young pers. comm.).

The potential value of certain genetic resources has resulted in a somewhat bitter debate within the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. Representatives of the lesser-developed countries, which have contributed most of the world's valuable food plants, take the view that genetic resources are a common heritage for all nations. Representatives of the more-developed countries, where many high-producing hybrids or mutations have been produced, refuse to give away what they regard as the added value for which they have been responsible. The debate continues.


Indonesia is a resource-rich country with enormous potential for becoming a major international political force, and a centre for pragmatic research in many fields. The future is, however, by no means certain and the course taken over the next few decades will be determined to a large extent by the prevailing attitude towards natural resource conservation (table 11.1). Either of the visions of the future is possible. The pessimistic vision will arise if sustainable or eco-development is not seriously adopted as the main tenet for economic development.

The management of forest resources is crucial in this context. Compared with the single-operation timber operations currently sanctioned, the continuous harvesting of minor products is ecologically sounder, much less destructive and of far more advantage to local economies. Much greater emphasis should be placed on research into polyculture forests combining commercial hardwoods, softwoods, fruit trees, rattan and game.


Land is a finite resource. It is possible of course, to open marginal land, and in the future it may be technically possible to grow crops on almost all of Sulawesi's lowland soils with increasingly expensive technological and financial support to supply the needs of the population. One day, however, it is certain that there will be no more (even marginal) land available and that other courses will then have to be followed. At that point it will not be possible any longer to draw the line that preserves all the options regarding natural genetic diversity and to safeguard soil and water. Unless the line is drawn deliberately prior to this point, it will inevitably be drawn for us at a time and place which we will no longer be able to choose.

Adapted from Anon. 1982a

The loss of habitat is closely linked to development projects but it has been shown in recent years that the narrow economic argument does not always win over conservation. For example, permission to exploit a copper deposit within the Bogani Nani Wartabone National Park has not been granted, and there appears to be a feeling in mineral companies that it is not economically worthwhile to undertake explorations in parks or reserves. It has been demonstrated to them that the line has been drawn. In 1979, the Morowali Plain in Central Sulawesi was being considered by the Department of Transmigration for the settlement of 10,000 families, by the Department of Mines and Energy for the mining of chromite, and by the Department of Forestry for the establishment of a National Park. Morowali was still largely forested, and had a complex pattern of relatively fertile alluvial soils interspersed with decidedly infertile soils. Neighbouring areas also had reasonably fertile soils, but they were much more uniform in distribution, and there was very little forest remaining. In Indonesia as a whole, alluvial forest has generally been converted to agricultural land, and eventually the argument for protecting this area was shown to be the strongest, and a National Park was established. It was shown that for the conversion of alluvial forest, the line had been drawn. So also with species. No one should be placed in a position in which a decision has to be made whether or not a species is to be allowed to live naturally into perpetuity. Breeding programs are no guarantee for any rare species and can only be justified as an adjunct to some other form of management in the natural habitat. Enough species have become extinct, or are endangered, such that the line for premeditated extinction must be considered to have been drawn. The underlying pressure on forests and other natural resources is, of course, the growth of human populations that have outgrown economic opportunities. Unless this continues to be tackled with every ounce of political and popular will, then sustainable development is just a dream.

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