News / Asia

Aceh Conservationists Achieve Small Victory

Indonesian veterinarian Yenni Saraswati, top center, of Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme (SOCP) examines the condition of an injured Sumatran orangutan found by environmental activists at a palm oil plantation in Rimba Sawang village, March 1, 2012.
Indonesian veterinarian Yenni Saraswati, top center, of Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme (SOCP) examines the condition of an injured Sumatran orangutan found by environmental activists at a palm oil plantation in Rimba Sawang village, March 1, 2012.
Sara Schonhardt
Last week, the provincial government in Aceh revoked a highly controversial permit for palm oil firm PT Kallista Alam, accused by environmental groups of illegally clearing protected forest. Conservationists hail the move as a major win for forest protection.

North Sumatra is home to one of the world’s most important ecosystems for critically endangered Sumantran orangutans. In recent years, those creatures have come under threat from companies that clear the land for palm oil plantations.

The Tripa peat swamp first gained attention in March when conservation groups warned that companies operating on illegal permits were setting fire to the forests there and killing orangutans in the process.

They say the governor in Aceh at the time had violated a two-year ban on new forest conversion by granting a permit to palm oil firm PT Kallista Alam. The permit, which was issued months after the moratorium took effect, allowed the firm to develop around 1,600 hectares of land, much of it on peat that, when disturbed, releases harmful carbon into the atmosphere.

Since 2010 around 15,000 hectares of primary forest have been cleared. Now, less than a quarter of the original forest remains.

Ian Singleton, the director of conservation for an orangutan protection program in the Leuser ecosystem that surrounds Tripa, says environmental groups often struggle to prove that suspect companies are operating illegally. But the Tripa case was an exception. “This Kallista Alam was such a sitting duck, it was so clearly illegal and so easy prove that we decided to go after it,” he stated.

Earlier this year, a local environmental group, Friends of the Earth, filed a lawsuit against the company and the government in Aceh. That move sparked similar investigations from several government bodies and the police, who are looking into accusations of illegal burning.

Singleton says those investigations have shown that other companies operating in the area are also breaking laws. “Although we’re extremely thrilled that we’ve got this Kallista Alam concession revoked what we see on the ground is business as usual,” he said.

The moratorium on forest clearing is at the heart of a climate deal in which Norway pledged $1 billion to aid Indonesian efforts to reduce carbon emissions from deforestation. The Tripa case is considered a test of Indonesia’s commitment to stop forest clearing and cut its carbon emissions by 26 percent by 2020.

During a recent trip to the United States, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono received an environmental stewardship award from a group of conservation organizations for his pledges. But activists here say enforcement of laws that prevent land clearing has proven difficult.

They say local governments accept money in return for issuing permits that violate national laws. Meanwhile, companies continue to burn the forests because it’s the cheapest, most effective form of land clearing.

Singleton says Kallista Alam serves as a precedent, but its tiny concession is just part of a much bigger picture. “Now our expectations are much, much higher and I think we’ve got the support of the central government to at least investigate and try to challenge, maybe even evict and prosecute some of the other companies there as well,” he added.

Less than 200 orangutans remain in the Leuser ecosystem, and Singleton predicts that if the rate of clearing doesn’t slow soon, they could all be gone by next year.

You May Like

Obama: I Will Do 'Everything I Can' to Close Guantanamo

US president says prison continues 'to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world' More

Sierra Leone Educates on Safe Ebola Burials

Also, country is improving at rapid response to isolated outbreaks, but health workers need to be even faster, officials say More

Religion Aside, Christmas Gains Popularity in Communist Vietnam

Increasingly wealthy Vietnamese embrace holiday due to its non-religious glamor, commercial appeal More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid