Chapter : 1. Forest Society and Colonialism

Forest Policy Of The Dutch In Indonesia

The Indonesian experience in the nineteenth century was quite similar to the Indian episode in terms of forestry and forest management. So much so that the increasing involvement with the East Indies, as Indonesian islands are known, both commercial and territorial led to the formation of the forest service in Indonesia.
1. Firstly, the Dutch were propelled by the need to get more timber for the railways and maritime activities for their even expanding network in the colony.
2. Secondly, territorial expansion led to the enactment of forest laws where by the access of natives to the forest wealth, which was their birthright, was reduced to a bare minimum.
3. Even their daily activities like taking wood for construction purposes or for fuel and cattle grazing were confined to specific areas and that too under strict supervision.
4. Another similarity with the Indian experience was the imposition of taxes and fines to the use of forest land.
5. Lastly, those who provided free labour and transport facilities to the Dutch rulers were exempted from such dues. This practice came to be known as the blandongdiensten system.
6. Such a restrictive and oppressive policy was bound to have its repercussions. Unrest soon spread far and wide. A major example of such a disturbance was the movement of the Saminists led by SurontikoSamin of a village with abundance of teak woods, which soon went out of reach of the villagers.
7. Tax boycott was followed by open protests which began in the last decade of the nineteenth century and continued into the twentieth century till the colonial rule came to an end in 1938.

War and deforestation :
The two World Wars aggravated the process of deforestation. In a war situation the need for timber is more than doubled due to increased use of timber for the purpose of war. Most of the war time wood is taken from the colonies and India and Indonesia were no exceptions. This is true of all the colonies that bear the burden of increased wartime requirements. In India and Indonesia plans for forest management (exploitation) were dumped and a system of open exploitation of forest wealth threw every caution to the winds. In Java the situation was a bit different. The ‘scorched earth policy’ that preceded the Japanese occupation everywhere involved destruction of timber and mills, led to random destruction of forests by the Japanese and consequently resulted in extension of cultivable land. This was a trend that became difficult to reverse once the war was over.

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