News / Asia

Activists Oppose Opening Indonesia's Protected Forests to Development

FILE - Rangers confiscate woods after a raid at an illegal logging site at Seulawah mountains in Aceh province, Indonesia, May 14, 2009.
FILE - Rangers confiscate woods after a raid at an illegal logging site at Seulawah mountains in Aceh province, Indonesia, May 14, 2009.
Sara Schonhardt
The sound of bulldozers and chainsaws breaks the silence of what was once a vast swath of rainforest in Aceh Province, Indonesia. Now, the land is scalped and upended, awaiting the planting of palm oil saplings.  

Environmental activists are concerned about an Aceh government plan they say opens protected forest areas to logging, mining and palm oil plantations.   
 
Officials in the central government have tried to ease fears, saying the plan will affect only a small fraction of the protected forest, said Mas Achmad Santosa who oversees legal affairs for the presidential working group monitoring forestry development.
 
“Yes, it will be reduced, but not as much as of the amount reported publicly," he said. "We also encourage the governor to initiate his environmental assessment study. Then it’s easier for the governor to make a decision: where the economic activity should be put, where areas should be conserved, should be protected, something like that.”
 
On Monday, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said economic development in Indonesia should not come at the expense of environmental sustainability and he instructed regional governments to enforce national laws.
 
Still, environmentalists say their concerns are not just about how much forest will be lost. Rather they point to the problems already being caused by the clearing of Aceh’s forests.
 
“Most of these protected forests are in the mountainous regions, on the upstream watershed," said Yuyun Indradi, who works with the environmental advocacy group, Greenpeace. "If the protected area is opened, it will create drought, water scarcity, flash floods.”
 
Indonesia's Sumatra island has lost nearly half of its forests in the past 30 years. Conservationists say rapid deforestation also encourages illegal wildlife trade and could cause some species to disappear from the wild within the next two decades. They also warn that deforestation jeopardizes water supplies, contributes to flooding and can disrupt communities that depend on the forests for their livelihoods.  
 
Muhammad Uria belongs to a coalition fighting to save the forests around Aceh Tamiang, site of see some of the province’s most rapid logging.
 
“This is an important area because it’s a water catchment area," he said. "It needs to be conserved because when the forests are cut it causes flooding." Uria added that now, just two hours of rain can cause major flooding down in the village.

Last week, Uria and other community members visited local lawmakers and asked them to address the destruction. So far there has been no response.
 
Last month, however, the Aceh government met with several environmental groups in Jakarta, including Greenpeace. The talk eased fears of widespread deforestation.
 
President Yudhoyono has recognized the challenge his government faces. In 2011 he signed off on a ban on new forest clearing permits that runs to 2015. But critics say the moratorium only protects a small amount of the country’s rainforests, and has been poorly implemented.

Santosa, from the presidential working unit, acknowledges that some companies violate the law and says his job is to encourage the government in Aceh to provide stronger enforcement.
 
“We have to make sure there is no political intervention, no money intervention, no power intervention," he said.

The situation is especially acute in Aceh, where special autonomy status gives Jakarta less control over environmental enforcement.  Last year the new governor dissolved a body tasked with monitoring one of the world’s most biodiverse land areas.  Conservationists say without the management body, it is harder to know what’s happening in the forests.

You May Like

Myanmar Fighting Poses Dilemma for China

To gain some insight into conflict, VOA’s Steve Herman spoke with Min Zaw Oo, director of ceasefire negotiation and implementation at Myanmar Peace Center More

Australia Concerned Over Islamic State 'Brides'

Canberra believes there are between 30 and 40 Australian women who have taken part in terror attacks or are supporting the Islamic State terror network More

Recreational Marijuana Use Now Legal in Washington, DC

Law allows adults 21 and over to privately possess and smoke 0.05 kilogram of pot, and to grow small amounts of the plant More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More