The government, already criticised for failing to prevent the loss of the ever-diminishing rainforests, the world’s second largest, made the announcement on 20 November, Southeast Asian media reported. According to reports, almost 50% of the nation’s 547,000 square miles (1.4 million sq km) of rainforest, or an area five times the size of England, is under logging concessions.

“We will issue 70 forest concessions. Some 21 are new concessions. The remaining 49 are given to timber firms to extend their existing concessions which expire in December,” Soegeng Widodo, Director General of Forest Production and Utilisation, told reporters. Most of the concessions are held by conglomerates. One of the largest is Barito Pacific with 10,400 square miles (26,700 sq km).

Environmental groups accuse loggers of using fires to clear land, causing a grave problem of smog across Southeast Asia (see related story), destroying huge areas of rainforest unnecessarily and of straying onto national park territories in the quest for timber.

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