Deforestation in Indonesia – Causes & Effects

Deforestation is an act of opening a land in the forest by cutting or burning trees, so that the land can be used for something else (non-forest use), such as fields, farms, or building new urban area. We already know that forests support sustainability in the earth, because forests don’t only serve as a facility to produce foods, but also produce oxygen, preventing land erosion, and saving water flows. Then, these functions make many countries protect their forests, and the countries are working together globally to maintain the forest, for example Amazon forest which is owned by several countries in Latin America. Therefore, most of deforestation are done illegally by irresponsible people.

See also: Luwak Coffee – Unique Facts about Indonesia


Indonesia Deforastation, forest, illegal loggingToday, a half of the forests are gone in Indonesia. From 1960, 82% of lands in Indonesia were forests. It decreased into 68% in 1982, 53% in 1995, and 49% today. This presents significant decrease of forest area.

In Indonesia, the main cause of deforestation is illegal logging and forest fires to open new fields. Deforestation to make new fields has been done since prehistoric time. The nomad cultures in indigenous people make it worse.

Moreover, its developed since they follow their ancestors’ lifestyle to move from an area to another. Their nomad lifestyle makes them open new fields by burning or cutting trees off. Over time, deforestation became uncontrollable, to supply wood industry, for building materials, household tools, or as fuels.

We can count how many volume of timbers needed for those needs, and how many timbers come from outside of Java Island, and how many timbers can be produced by Perhutani (Indonesian national forests made for sustaining timbers). The answer is, Perhutani can not produce all the timbers demands for all those industries, so most of the time, timber industries will take timbers from the forests.

See also: Largest Cities in Indonesia – Indonesian Heroes

Causes of Deforestation

Deforestation can happen because of two things: human causes and nature causes.

A. Human causes

Human is no doubt the smartest creatures on earth, and human can build things to sustain their life. At the beginning, human relied to forests as a resource of their foods, such as tubers and animals. Human had to forage and hunt animals for foods. Over time, hunting was not enough to feed the family anymore. Human had to find new way, which is making simple farms and fields. They started to grow livestock and edible plants. For this reason, they did deforestation.

Deforestation is still done today, and the purpose is expanding too. Here are the deforestation causes done by human:

1. Illegal Logging

Illegal logging is not only done by people who live near the forest to fulfill their daily needs. This activity is done by big companies too, even companies who got license fro HPH/IUPHHK do illegal lodging outside of permitted area. Illegal logging happens in production forest, protected forest, even in animal conservation forest. All of us, not only governments, have to find out how to stop illegal logging, so we still can have some forest in the

2. Intentional Forest Fire

People open new lands by burning the forest. If the fire is uncontrollable, it can spread and burn the entire forest. They think that burning the forest will make opening the land easier and cheaper. Big companies do this too, burning the entire forest to open a palm field, along with building crude palm oil (CPO) factories. However, in fact, burning the entire forest is giving a huge impact to natural environment. Such as the temperature of weather becomes hot than before, There are no natural source to absorb water when rain fall, as well as loss habitats for entire animals in Indonesia so they become endangered.

3. Cutting Trees to Make New Lands

This is usually done by indigenous people, cutting trees to open new lands for making fields and farms. Sometimes they are also hired by sneaky businessmen to do illegal logging this way, and to open palm fields.

4. Nomad Style Farming

Some indigenous people like in Dayaks and Anak Dalam in Indonesia, still have nomad cultures, where they will move from one land to another and do simple farming to sustain their life. When moving to a new land, they will do deforestation by cutting or burning trees and grow their crops in the land. After a few years they move away,  leaving the deforested land and open new land in new area. The deforested land will become dull, dry and arid, makes it difficult to do reforestation, and it needs decades to restore the missing nutrients in the arid soil.

This kind of farming give contribution to the damage of forest ecosistems, especially in small islands. Nomad style farming and forest fire also have positive corelation as farming season is usually during dry season. The research shows that every dry season there is always forest fire because of opening new lands, especially in Sumatra and Kalimantan.

See also: Dayak Tribe – Indonesian Cultures

5. Mining

Mining is done by open and close mining. Open mining is a mining done on a land surface. This kind of mining can change topography and condition of land surface, and it can change ecology system of the surrounding area. Open mining eliminate all vegetation on the land surface because the soil will be exploited and carried away to take the mineral mines inside.

6. Transmigration

The main purpose of transmigration program in Indonesia is to decrease poverty and population density on Java Island, giving chance for diligent people and to fill job vacancies in processing natural resources on other islands like Papua, Kalimantan, Sumatra and Sulawesi. But the governments’ decision to spread people to all over Indonesia by this program gives negative effect to the forest. Governments did deforestation to make houses for trans-migrants, and every family chief got 2 hectares of land. Deforestation was done for transmigration programs.

Each family in transmigration programs grows, and one day the children will have to move away from their parents’ houses and build their own houses. The 2 hectares of land owned by the main family will have to be expanded too. This means opening new lands and cutting more trees to build houses.

See also: Poverty in Indonesia

7. Housing Complex and Office Buildings

With the increasing number of citizens, basic need of housing will increase. Limited area for building houses makes people have to open new lands by deforestation. People will build house on steep slopes too, risking their life since landslides can happen anytime on the slopes, especially in rainy season. Not to mention they use the woods cut from the forest to build the houses. The village developments make people have to build buildings in the village, probably in the area that was used to be forests. The mechanism is the same as housing complex: people open a new land for offices by deforestation, then use the woods for building the office.

See also: Biggest Stadiums in Indonesia – Largest Mosque in Indonesia

8. Building Infrastructures (roads, airports, ports, etc)

One of the reason why many Indonesian people live in poverty is because of the difficulties of transportation. Indonesia is known as an archipelago consists of more than 17.500 islands. There are still many isolated area because there is no adequate transportation infrastructures. Meanwhile, transportation infrastructure is an urgent need. Governments are building many infrastructures now. However,  the process gives negative effects to living environment.

For example, when making roads, sometimes the roads have to cut off protected forest or conservation area, which should not be disturbed. The same thing happens when building airports and ports. If the ports are built on coastal forest or mangrove, usually deforestation of mangroves is needed. The missing mangroves area will lead to beach erosion.

See also:


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[toggle title=”9. Mono-cultural Forest” state=”opened”]

Many timber industries grow the same trees for big area of forest. It may look like a real forest, but in fact the trees will be cut off after certain times and businessmen will grow the same trees again, this happen for ironwoods and teak. The forest area which initially had many type of plants was converted into one type of plants. This mono-cultural forest is prone to erosion, spreading of pests and plant diseases, and decreasing of biodiversity.

[toggle title=”10. Palm Field”]

In Indonesia, deforestation is often done to open new lands for palm fields. The investment of palm fields are done by both domestic and foreign companies. Economically, palm fields give big profits. Some people who are ever involved and feel the effect of development of palm fields. They realized about negative effect of deforestation to their environments. Ecosystem balance is disturbed due to decreasing of biodiversity, environmental pollution because of excessive pesticides, difficulties of decomposition of palm litters, and the land needs very long time to recover.

[toggle title=”11. Conversion of Peat-lands to be Rice-fields”]

Indonesia ever converted one million hectares of peat-lands to be rice-fields. Its use for supply foods needs by maintaining self-sufficiency of rice. The peat-land forests decreased, and negative effects started happening, such as the increasing of forest fire, global warming, decreasing in biodiversity, etc.

Peat-lands have high carbon contents, just like coal and crude oil. Exposing peat-lands to sun rays and dry season will make forest fire bigger in peat-lands, as the carbon contained in the soil acts as fuel. This will make deforestation even larger.

[toggle title=”12. Grazing Livestock in the Forest”]

Although the effect is small compared with other factors, but grazing life stocks is considered as destroying the forest. The livestock, such as goats and sheep, will eat leaves and young plants in the forest, thus preventing new plants to grow. They will sometimes eat the bark too, which can kill the already grown trees. The soil will stiffen because of being trampled by the livestock. This will affect water infiltration to the ground; water run-off process will increase, making erosion on land surface.

[toggle title=”13. Wrong Forest Management Policy”]

Deforestation can occur because of wrong policy which gives more interests to economic effect rather than ecological effect. There is an opinion that wrong forest management policy from the governments is a “structural deforestation”. Thus, the deforestation is supported by the law. Not to mention the corrupt of Indonesian governments who would give “permits for cutting trees” to any businessmen who are willing to pay more money.

[toggle title=”14. Pests and Diseases”]

Extended spreading of pests in the forest can happen as a result of using excessive pesticides. The pests will be resistant and can’t be killed. Moreover, they will grow uncontrollably and attack plants and trees in the forest nearby.


B. Natural Causes

The natural disasters can cause deforestation too. However, deforestation occurred by natural disasters. Then, it will take less time to recover, as well as easier to do reforestation after a natural disaster occurs.

  • 1. Forest Fire

Forest fire can happen naturally. It happens every year in Indonesia, once the dry season is too long. Indonesia is accused to export smokes to nearby countries, such as Malaysia and Singapore. Forest fire can destroy all plants and animals in the forest, also producing smoke that has negative effects for health and aviation safety. The fire starts from friction of dry tree branches. In remote sensing from satellite, we can see some “hot spot” coming from an area of forest fire.

Other than long dry season, the opening of peat lands can make forest fire too. Moreover, opening a peat lands will make sun-rays coming to the forest floor, making peatland dry and easy to get burned.

  • Volcanic Eruption

Volcanic eruption surely destroy forests and wild life, even people’s life around the volcano. Volcanic eruption is an event where the magma rises from inside of earth. Magma is a mix of stones in liquid form. Magma activity is caused by the increased heat of magma and plenty of gas inside, making the earth skin (lands) prone to cracks and shifts. Volcanic events happening in volcanoes after eruption (post-volcanic). Such as emerging of gas resources (H2, S, H2O, CO2) and hot water-spring. These gas resources can be dangerous for living creatures (human, animals, and plants). However, a few years after volcanic eruption, the lands around the volcano will be more fertile. The fertile lands allow new vegetation to grow. The trees will grow faster as there is still plenty of nutrients in the soil.

See also: Sumatran Tigers – Indonesian Red Cross Society

  • Increased Sea Level and Tsunami

Increasing sea level, including tsunami, can contribute to deforestation. Forests in coastal area will be destroyed because of these natural events. Although forests in coastal area is considered as a way to decrease damage impact of tsunami, but the forests get the impact too.

See also: Biggest Earthquake in Indonesia – Most Beautiful Fabric in Indonesia

Effects of Deforestation


Forest has a function of absorbing and collecting water rapidly when rain happens. But when deforestation occurs, water absorption is disturbed. The water will be stagnated in lower areas, and flood happens in housing complex.

2.Decreasing Water Resources

Trees have big contribution in maintaining water cycle, using the roots to absorb water in its surroundings, then the water is streamed to the leaves and evaporates and released to the atmosphere. When trees are cut away, nothing will absorb water . This will decrease water resources. This is why  fresh water are very scarce in some areas.

3.Loss of Soil Fertility

When the trees are cut off, the soil will absorb too much sun rays, making the soil become very dry and arid. The nutrition in the soil will evaporate. The rain can wash away all the remaining nutrition of the soil. When the soil already lost its important nutrition, reforestation is very difficult because any cultivation in an arid land is impossible. The land needs very long time to recover its fertility.

4.Loss of Biodiversity

Although tropical rain-forest is only 6% of earth surface, 80-90% of species (both plants and animals, even indigenous human) live inside it. Deforestation in big scales decreases atleast 100 animals everyday worldwide. Many animals and plants are already extinct because of deforestation. If uncontrollable deforestation occurs continously, we will lose more species overtime.

See also: Endangered Animals in Indonesia – Bird of Paradise

5.Global Warming

Deforestation has an effect of global warming. Trees have big role of absorbing carbon-dioxide, which is then used to make carbohydrates, fats and healthy proteins which form a tree. In biology, this process is called photosynthesis.

When deforestation occurs, many trees are cut off or burned, resulting in releasing of carbon-dioxide from the plants, plus there will be less plants to absorb carbon-dioxide from the atmosphere. This make the weather is more humid and warm. The increasing of temperature melts the ice in earth poles, increasing sea level and rainfall. Increased rainfall, with less trees to absorb the water will result in flood. This will make vicious circle which can destroy the whole life.


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Data about Deforestation in Indonesia

Globally, Indonesia, Nigeria and North Korea has the highest deforestation ranks. In One year, Indonesia lost its forest around one million hectares. Deforestation in Indonesia is mainly done for opening new lands for making palm fields and building infrastructures. Indonesia, now recorded as the biggest producer of palm oil globally, use 16% of deforestation to open new palm fields. In the last 2 years, Indonesian governments has forbidden deforestation for palm fields. This make multinational companies find new lands in West Africa. Moreover, from 2005-2015, WWF (Worldwide Fund) Indonesia recorded that 13% of deforestation in Indonesia occurs in conservation area by small-scale farmers. This is due to lack of controls by governments.

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Then, from explanation above, we already know that deforestation really gives negative impact to our environments. Forest exploitation that occurs continuously without any reforestation already happened since prehistoric time. This make the forest destroyed and disasters like flood began to happen. The governments should be more stern in making law for cutting trees in forests and reforestation. As younger generation, we can help by starting to plant trees around us, for example in offices, schools, or frontyards. More trees around us means more water absorption, preventing the upcoming floods in rainy season.

We should also limit the use of papers, paper towel, and tissues, since those products are made of woods that are cut off from forests. The small things we do, like limiting to waste papers, paper towels and tissues can help reducing deforestation, if everybody does that.