Forest Transformations in Java 

  •   Java is now famous as a rice-producing island in Indonesia

  • Java in Indonesia is where the Dutch started forest management.

  • In 1600, the population of Java was an estimated 3.4 million. There were many villages in the fertile plains, but there were also many c ommunities living in the mountains and practising shifting cultivation.

The Woodcutters of Java

  • The Kalanga of Java were a community o f skilled forest cutters and shifting cultivators.

  • Without their expertise, it would have been difficult to harvest teak and for the kings to build their palaces.

  • When the Dutch began to gain control over the forests in the eighteenth century, they tried to make the Kalangs work under them

Dutch Scientific Theory

  • In the nineteenth century, when it became important to control territory and not just people, the Dutch enacted forest laws in Java , restricting villagers’ access to forests.

  • Villagers were punished for grazing cattle in young stands , transporting wood without a permit, or travelling on forest roads with horse carts or cattle.

  • In 1882, 280,000 sleepers were Source G exported from Java alone.

  • All this r equired labour to cut the trees, transport the logs and prepare the sleepers.

  • The Dutch first imposed rents on land being cultivated in the forest and then exempted some villages from these rents if they worked collectively to provide free labour and buffaloes for cutting and transporting timber. This was known as the blandongdiensten system.

Samin’s Challenge

  • Around 1890, Surontiko Samin of Randublatung village, a teak forest village, began questioning state ownership of the forest.

  • He argued that the state had not created the wind, water, earth and wood, so it could not own it.

  • By 1907 , 3,000 families were following his ideas.

  • Some of the Saminists protested by lying down on their land when the Dutch came to survey it, while others refused to pay taxes or fines or perform labour.

War and Deforestation

  • The First World War and the Second World War had a major impact on forests.

  • In India, working plans were abandoned at this time, and the forest department cut trees freely to meet British war needs.

  • In Java, just before the Japanese occupied the region, the Dutch followed ‘a scorched earth’ policy , destroying sawmills, and burning huge piles of giant teak logs so that they would not fall into Japanese hands

New Developments in Forestry

  • Since the 1980s, governments across Asia and Africa have begun to see that s cientific forestry and the policy of keeping forest communities away from forests has resulted in many conflicts.

  • Conservation of forests rather than collecting timber has become a more important goal.

  • The government has recognised that in order to meet this goal, the people who live near the forests must be involved
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Davneet Singh

Davneet Singh has done his B.Tech from Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur. He has been teaching from the past 14 years. He provides courses for Maths, Science, Social Science, Physics, Chemistry, Computer Science at Teachoo.