Greenpeace urges Indonesia to stop forest destruction

By Adhityani Arga, Reuters

JAKARTA — Indonesia must stop the destruction of its rainforests and commit to a moratorium on conversion of peat swamp forests into farmland, Greenpeace said on Tuesday.

Indonesia had the fastest pace of deforestation in the world between 2000-2005, destroying an area of forest the size of 300 soccer pitches every hour, according to the environment group.

The Greenpeace appeal came ahead of a U.N. climate change summit in December, where participants from 189 countries are expected to gather in Bali to discuss a new deal to fight global warming. The existing pact, the Kyoto Protocol, runs out in 2012.

“The forests in Indonesia are being destroyed. This has to end,” Hasporo, forest campaigner for Greenpeace Southeast Asia, said in a statement.

“The Indonesian government must act and before December’s Kyoto Protocol meeting in Bali, commit to a moratorium on conversion of peatland forests and ensure the implementation of an effective action plan for fire fighting and prevention.”

The Indonesian government says it must be given incentives including a payout of US$5-US$20 per hectare to preserve its forests. It also wants to negotiate a fixed price for other forms of biodiversity, including coral reefs.

Indonesia has a total forest area of more than 225 million acres (91 million hectares), or about 10 percent of the world’s remaining tropical forests.

But the tropical Southeast Asian country — whose forests are a treasure trove of plant and animal species including the endangered orangutans — has already lost an estimated 72 percent of its original frontier forest.

As part of its efforts to save Indonesia’s forests, Greenpeace launched a Forest Defenders Camp in Sumatra island’s Riau province with some 40 “Forest Defenders” tasked with monitoring forest fires and gathering information on deforestation caused by palm oil and pulp wood plantations.

“Our people consider the forests a sacred inheritance from our ancestors and we have an obligation to protect it because it is our source of life,” Ali Mursyid, a community leader from a Riau village, said in a statement.