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Environmental Group Camps to Protect Indonesia's Forests


The international environmental organization Greenpeace has opened a "forest defenders camp" on Indonesia's Sumatra Island to bring global attention to the country's destruction of its forests. VOA's Nancy-Amelia Collins in Jakarta has more.

The camp was opened in Sumatra's Riau province by Greenpeace, local communities, and local government officials. It will hold about 40 people.

The aim, according to a Greenpeace spokeswoman, is to help prevent seasonal fires and further deforestation, and conduct bio-diversity surveys.

Hundreds of fires are set every year by local farmers and large agricultural corporations to clear land for plantations. In recent years, heavy smoke from the fires has blanketed parts of Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore for weeks at a time.

The Southeast Asia director of Greenpeace, Emmy Hafidz, draws a link between the loss of Indonesian forest and global climate change.

"This is our bearing witness to the destruction of Indonesian forest, especially the peat land, and to expose to the world the link between deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions that lead to climate change,"

Indonesia has around 60 percent of the world's tropical peat lands. These swamps release huge amounts of carbon dioxide when they are drained or burned to make way for crops such as palm oil, pulp plantations, and other timber industries.

These peat lands are being destroyed at a rapid rate. A recent report by the World Bank says this has made Indonesia the world's third-largest emitter of carbon gases, which are thought to be a major contributor to global warming.

Greenpeace officials say the opening of the defenders' camp was timed to coincide with a U.N. climate change conference that will be held in December on Indonesia's Bali Island.

Participants from more than 180 countries are due to begin talks there on a replacement for the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.

The Kyoto Protocol focused on cutting greenhouse gas emissions caused by vehicles, industry and other human activity. But it did not address emissions that arise from the destruction of forests.

The Indonesian government indicated that it would protect its forests - for a price. It wants the major carbon emitters, such as the United States and European Union, to pay it between five and $20 per hectare to not destroy its remaining forests.

With about 91 million hectares of forest still standing, the country strands to receive as much as $1.8 billion if the proposal is accepted.

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