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Jail, stiff penalties sought for damaging trees

Publication Date : 28-08-2014

 

The Surabaya municipality in Indonesia will impose a three-month jail sentence or a fine of 50 million rupiah (US$4,280) on anyone found guilty of deliberately destroying and abusing trees across the city.

Surabaya municipal legal affairs head Ekawati Rahayu said the ordinance on tree protection was ratified by the Surabaya municipal council in a bylaw approval session on Aug. 22.

An article in the regulation stipulates that all people are prohibited from nailing, installing posters on, poisoning and dumping garbage arbitrarily around the city’s trees.

“Offenders can be charged with violating the bylaw and could face imprisonment or a fine of 50 million rupiah,” said Ekawati on Tuesday.

She added the bylaw was actually a replacement of Bylaw No. 18/2003.

“In the old bylaw, a tax was imposed on anyone found felling a tree, but there is no taxation in the new bylaw because the tree tax was against the law on regional taxation,” she said.

She added that in the new bylaw, a fine would be imposed against offenders and they would be required to replace felled trees measuring 30 centimetres in diameter with 35 trees of the same variety and measurement, while a 50-cm diameter tree must be replaced with 50 trees. For damaging trees over 50 cm in diameter, the punishment is 80 trees.

“Violators also cannot choose the tree variety, but [it must be] in accordance with the needs of the government. They also should not plant them in the original place, but [in a location] appointed by the municipality,” she added.

Meanwhile, Surabaya Mayor Tri “Risma” Rismaharini said the punishments would be enforced without exception, including on those from the government.

“Everyone is required to uphold the bylaw, including the government,” said Risma, who was formerly the head of the city’s Parks Agency before running in the gubernatorial election with a supporting ticket from the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle.

“If the municipality harms a tree when carrying out a project, it is also required to replace the number of trees in line with the bylaw,” she added.

She added that the bylaw required the City Parks Agency to immediately make an inventory of the number of trees owned by the municipality, and their varieties.

She said all the trees would be insured so that in the event of a falling tree causing injury to a victim, the municipality could provide insurance to the person affected.

Acts of vandalism against trees in Surabaya are common, especially during election campaigns when campaign teams install banners and posters by nailing them to trees.

A number of local businesses have also taken advantage of trees for advertising. The acts of vandalism have often been protested by the public through radio and non-governmental groups.

In May this year, Risma was enraged at consumer product manufacturer Unilever when a number of plants at Bungkul Park in Surabaya were damaged after being trampled by a crowd of people scrambling to claim free ice cream sponsored by the company.

The mayor said at that time that she would sue the company for damaging the flowers in the park.

The company has apologized and promised to provide compensation for the damage.

Separately, the Indonesian Forum for the Environment’s (Walhi) East Java chapter executive director, Ony Mahardika, said the bylaw should be strictly implemented by the government, including on officials from the government who felled trees.

“Development projects that involve land acquisition and indirectly have to fell trees are a challenge faced by the government in not being selective in implementing the law,” said Ony.

 

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