Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Orangutan Caring Week

Organizations and Individuals to Express Concern about the Red Ape during Orangutan Caring Week

October 19, 2007 - Santa Monica, CA. Orangutans, the great apes of Indonesia and Malaysia, will be topic of celebration and concern by numerous organizations during Orangutan Caring Week, November 4-10, 2007. It is an opportunity for the public to learn more about this marvelous species, their role in the rainforest environment of Borneo and Sumatra, and their continuing struggle to survive. It is also a time where people can consider how they can help save the species and their forest habitat for future generations.

Orangutan Caring Week (OCW) or Pekan Peduli Orangutan (in the Indonesian language), was originally sponsored by the Orang Utan Republik Education Initiative (OUREI) in 2005, following a petition campaign and efforts by OUREI Ambassador Angelina Sondakh, to obtain official recognition of the event by the Indonesian government. On November 16, 2005, Orangutan Caring Week was first officially declared by the Minister of Forestry, M. S. Kaban in Indonesia. Since that time, OCW has grown internationally and particularly in Indonesia where numerous organizations have taken the opportunity to highlight the orangutan and their own organization’s efforts to conserve the species.

According to OUREI Chairman Dr. Gary Shapiro, “Orangutan Caring Week is a time where we can all work together, raise awareness, build synergy, and encourage the public to show that they care about the future of one of our closest primate relatives.” This year, the theme for OCW is “Expressing Concern for Orangutans through the Arts and Sciences.”

Organizations and individuals are encouraged to develop and deliver projects in their schools or at their organizations that use the arts (photography, painting, music, dance, plays, etc.) and the sciences (lectures, poster presentations, passing out literature, etc.).

Numerous orangutan organizations will be participating. For example, in Indonesia, the Sumatran Orangutan Education Consortium, a group of six orangutan and conservation organizations, will be providing education programs and outreach events in and around the city of Medan, Sumatra. In Pangkalan Bun, Central Indonesian Borneo, events will be held in the city community hall during the week. In Ubud, Bali, films on orangutans will be shown to interested tourists and others. Organizations in Indonesia wanting to participate should contact Dr. Barita Manullang, OUREI Indonesia Executive Director to coordinate the event. He can be contacted at barita@orangutanrepublik.org.

Zoological institutions around the world will also be participating as well Indonesian Consulates in the United States. In schools, government offices, and businesses, concerned individuals will raise awareness about orangutans in creative and traditional ways. Organizations planning to participate in OCW are encouraged to contact OUREI to better publicize their own events. For more information on OCW, visit www.OrangutanCaringWeek.org or contact info@orangutanrepublik.org.

Friday, 19 October 2007

Business as usual - palm oil company style.

This excavator, owned by a palm oil company, is busy
destroying a forest where numerous orangutan nests

had been seen.

Indonesia's Minister of Agriculture denies this is

What you see here, besides the trailer, is palm oil seedlings for as far as the eye can see. A rainforest once stood here.

Can anyone see a tree?

Apart from the destruction wreaked on land by palm oil companies, they also pollute rivers and lakes. Local people complain that since palm oil companies have polluted their water, larger fish are now all but impossible to catch.
Photos courtesy of the Centre for Orangutan Protection.

Local conservationists protest the logging of orangutan habitat.

Indonesia's own Centre for Orangutan Protection team in action. Some very brave people who deserve our support.

Answers Sought to Save Asia's Orangutans

Answers Sought to Save Asia's Orangutans
US: October 19, 2007

CHICAGO - The remaining 62,000 orangutans in the wild could be wiped out within decades as forests in their Asian island habitat are decimated by loggers and palm oil farmers, conservationists said on Thursday.

American zookeepers met this week at Chicago's Brookfield Zoo with conservationists working on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra to sort through problems faced by the red-haired Asian apes and find solutions.

"There are quick and easy things everyone can do," said Ian Singleton, director of the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Program on the Indonesian island, home to 6,700 of the critically endangered fruit-eating animals, distinctive for their thoughtful dispositions, strength, and lion-like mating call. Borneo, shared by Malaysia and Indonesia, is home to 55,000 orangutans.
"Don't play into stereotypes when buying a (greeting) card with an orangutan with his hair teased up. Education is one of the strongest components and one of the best ways forward," Singleton said.

Zoos can play a role educating the public to purchase foods or biodiesel fuel made only with sustainable palm oil, rather than from palm oil from plantations carved out of newly cut forests, Singleton and other experts said.

Do not buy furniture -- even toothpicks -- made from tropical hardwoods that is not certified, which could mean it was harvested illegally inside areas designated as "protected," they said.
And drop a contribution into zoo collection boxes destined for underfunded conservation efforts, they said.

"American zoos receive 180 million visitors a year -- an astonishing number of people. If all those people put in US$1," current funding of a few million dollars from The World Bank and other donors would be multiplied, said Serge Wich, who surveys orangutan populations for the Great Ape Trust.

The decline of orangutan populations has been "rapid," Wich said, though figures are hard to come by, and their remaining habitat is shrinking at alarming rates.

A report earlier this year from the United Nations' Environment Program said Indonesia's forest habitat for orangutans may be gone by 2022 without intervention.

According to conservationists, a license granted to cut down select trees is often followed by illegal clear-cutting, with palm oil planting close behind.

Male orangutans usually flee the area, but females, with their young, often stay behind and may be killed and their infants kidnapped for the pet trade. Hundreds of orangutans are rescued and taken to temporary sanctuaries, hopefully to be reintroduced into the wild.

Many attending the workshops expressed outrage at the exploitation for entertainment of the intelligent apes, which can grow to 300 pounds (136 kg) with a 7-foot (2.13-metre) armspan -- which often triggers demand for orangutans as pets.

"Orangutans and other great apes are not the only thing we are trying to protect here. These species stand for integrity of forests and ecosystems," Wich said.

The few hundred remaining Sumatran tigers, as well as elephants, languors, gibbons, and many other rare species are also threatened.

Wich said fires raged again last year over vast peat forests drained by canals that were dug on the islands a decade ago, further crimping orangutan habitat and releasing large storehouses of greenhouse gases.

Balancing the needs of impoverished local human populations on the islands against the animals' needs is a challenge, the experts said.

But government officials at both the national and local level have taken up the environmental cause, though they often lack the tools to direct development away from forested land.
"They don't have computers, they don't have satellite imagery of their own areas," Singleton said. "If you want them to not put palm oil estates on high-value forests, they have to know where they are."

Story by Andrew Stern

Fund illegal logging fight, govt told.

Fund illegal logging fight, govt told

Ridwan Max Sijabat, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta 19th October 2007

Instead of begging rich countries for forestry projects, the government should instead increase the Indonesian Military (TNI) and National Police budgets to stop rampant illegal logging.

Gandjar Pranowo, a member of the forestry and agriculture commission at the House of Representatives, and Elfian Effendi, executive director of Greenomics Indonesia, spoke to The Jakarta Post separately Thursday about illegal logging.

They said the government investigation into illegal logging in timber estates -- allegedly involving pulp and paper mills -- was carried out to cover up even worse illegal logging activities in conservation forests and national parks, particularly in Sumatra and Kalimantan.

"I agree with the idea of raising the TNI and police budgets to prevent any involvement in illegal logging practices in protected forests and national parks," Gandjar said.

He said the financial losses from illegal logging amounted to some US$400 billion annually; a figure ample enough to increase both the defense and security sector budgets.

The government has raised the 2008 defense budget to Rp 40 trillion from Rp 32 trillion this fiscal year, but the figure is still far below the minimum budget of Rp 100 trillion.

The budget deficit has been worsened by the government take-over of all military business to develop the TNI into a more professional force, as mandated by the Law on Military.

Gandjar slammed both the government and the House for the lack of political innovation and breakthroughs to provide sufficient funding for the military and police force.

Elfian said with its vast conservation forests, Indonesia had become an environmental donor in neutralizing the large amount of carbon dioxide produced by industrialized countries, particularly by the U.S. and China.

"Indonesia, with a total of some 110 million hectares of forest area, including 26.5 million hectares of protected forests and national parks, donates $530 billion annually to absorb carbon dioxide, which has been blamed for global warming and climate change," he said.

However, he said despite Indonesia's strong bargaining power, the government was in a difficult position since illegal logging had made areas of the country prone to ecological disasters such as landslides, floods and forest fires.

Meanwhile, Muhammad Chalid, executive director of the Indonesian Environmental Forum, said the government should introduce a regulation in lieu of a law to halt illegal logging and prove to the world Indonesia was serious about preventing global warming.

"This is more concrete and realistic for Indonesia than hosting the global environmental summit in Bali in December, which many doubt will be able to provide concrete solutions to the issue," he said.

Chalid said Indonesia's top priority should not be supporting the carbon trade or the reduced carbon from environmental deterioration and degradation (REDD) program at the Bali summit.
He said saving people by preventing ecological disasters and forest fires was far more important than carbon trading.

Friday, 12 October 2007

Born to be Wild - not caged.


For further details please could you
scroll down this page until you reach
the section on our project to rescue
26 orangutans.
Thank you.

Thursday, 11 October 2007

Greenpeace Urges Indonesia to Stop Forest Destruction

Greenpeace Urges Indonesia to Stop Forest Destruction

INDONESIA: October 10, 2007

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 UN 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-$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.

Riau's total forest areas have plunged to 2.7 million hectares in 2004 from 6.4 million hectares in 1982, data from Greenpeace's local partner, Riau-based environment group Jikalahari, shows.
Greenpeace said companies continue to burn vast swathes of peat forests in Riau province for palm oil and pulp wood plantations despite a government ban, contributing to the annual haze that chokes the region.

Peat fires can rage for months in Riau, which is just across the Strait of Malacca from Singapore and Malaysia, and add to a choking smog of haze that is an annual health menace to millions of people in the region.

Story by Adhityani Arga

Palm oil furore could stymie green fuel plan

Palm oil furore could stymie green fuel plan

Marian Wilkinson Environment Editor, Sydney Morning EchoOctober 11, 2007

THE rush to replace carbon-emitting petroleum with "clean green" biofuels is threatening to stall in the face of rising food prices, Federal Government disincentives and growing opposition from environmental groups sounding the alarm about large-scale deforestation to support fuel crops.

Now a planned $30 million biodiesel plant in Port Botany is under attack by the Greens because it will use palm oil from Indonesia and Malaysia. Its future is up in the air as the developer, Natural Fuels Australia, decides whether it should go ahead. The chairman of the company, Barry Murphy, said yesterday that the Federal Government clean fuels grant did not in reality encourage the use of pure biodiesel from crops and therefore "makes the economics difficult". He also acknowledged the price of feedstock and the global issues around climate change and deforestation made the decision a tough one.

The Greens state MP Ian Cohen is demanding that NSW reject the planning request by Natural Fuels for the biodiesel plant, saying the minister, Frank Sartor, has failed to consider its effect on rainforest destruction because of the plant's proposed use of palm oil. Mr Cohen has written to Mr Sartor saying the plant, rather than helping climate change, "may worsen the global crisis whilst hastening the destruction of tropical forests".

A spokesman for the Planning Department said the importation of palm oil was a Federal Government matter.

This week Natural Fuels found itself at the centre of a political storm over its planned importation of palm oil for use in its plant in Darwin, which will come on line in December.
The Federal Environment Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, announced Australia would push for international action on the sustainable sourcing of palm oil at the United Nations climate talks in Bali in December.

The Federal Government provides a 38 cents a litre subsidy for biofuels, including those made from palm oil, as part of its push to encourage clean green fuel. But at the same time Mr Turnbull has pledged $200 million to stop deforestation in South-East Asia, caused partly by a huge expansion in palm oil plantations.

Earlier this year the UN reported that the drive for new palm oil plantations was one of the greatest threats to the rainforests and the endangered orang-utans in the region. "In Indonesia and Malaysia it is now the primary cause of permanent rainforest loss," the report found. Plantations in Indonesia have expanded from 600,000 hectares in 1985 to an estimated 6.4 million hectares this year, the Palm Oil Action Group says.

The devastation of rainforest and peatlands has caused some big European biofuel companies to shun palm oil as a source. But companies like Natural Fuels are anxious to create a "sustainable" source of palm oil and have joined forces with large companies such as Cadbury Schweppes and Unilever, and the environment group WWF, to form the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil.
At a meeting next month in Kuala Lumpur, the group will call on growers, wholesalers and retailers to accept a code of practice curbing destructive activities, including the clearing and burning of rainforest. Mr Murphy has been heavily involved in the reforms and said the company realised "these are real issues and need to be addressed".

But several environmental groups, including Greenpeace, say the roundtable group is dependent on self-regulation and will be incapable of enforcing sustainable production.

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

The relentless push for land clearance continues unabated

It is now the time of the year where fires are set to
clear land. When the forests once stood here,
the soil would have been too wet to burn.
Once cleared, though, and drainage channels cut, the moisture
drains out of the soil and the land quickly dries out under the intense rays of the sun.

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Images the Indonesian Minister of Agriculture would prefer you not to see

We have hundreds of images like these. What you are
looking at (and the Minister would prefer you didn't) are
images of where rainforests once stood and were once home
to millions of creatures both large and small.

This land is now designated for palm oil plantations.

Monday, 8 October 2007

Indonesia seeks payout to save forests

Indonesia seeks payout to save forests

Mon Oct 8, 2007 1:00pm BST

By Telly Nathalia
JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesia wants to be paid $5-$20 per hectare not to destroy its remaining forests, the environment minister said on Monday, for the first time giving an actual figure that he wants the world's rich countries to pay. Participants from 189 countries are expected to gather in Bali for global climate talks at a U.N.-led summit in December.

They will hear a report on Reduced Emissions from Deforestation (RED) -- a new scheme that aims to make emission cuts from forest areas eligible for global carbon trading.

But apart from carbon trading, Indonesia also wants big emitters such as the United States and the European Union to pay the country to preserve its pristine rainforests.

"We will ask for a compensation of $5-20 per hectare. It's not fixed; it is open to negotiation," Environment Minister Rachmat Witoelar told reporters after a cabinet meeting at the presidential palace on Monday.

With a total forest area of 91 million ha (225 million acres), Indonesia could receive as much as $1.8 billion for preserving its forests under the proposal.

Indonesia will also negotiate a fixed price for other forms of biodiversity, including coral reefs, Witoelar added. He later told Reuters that the figure matches the amount needed for preservation efforts and to create alternative employment for the local communities.
However, some critics say it is not clear how the funds would be supervised to ensure they are used properly.

Under the Kyoto Protocol's first round, which runs through 2012, about 35 rich nations are obliged to cut emissions by 5 percent below 1990 levels by 2008-12 to fight global warming.
The Bali meeting in December will initiate talks on clinching a new deal by 2009.

Kyoto focused on reducing emissions from industry and capturing greenhouse cases, but did not include a scheme to cut emissions from forestry or to protect existing forests, which could reduce global emissions by 20 percent.

The sprawling archipelago is also home to 60 percent of the world's threatened tropical peat lands -- dense tropical swamps that release big amounts of carbon dioxide when burnt or drained to plant crops such as palm oil.

Indonesia is one of the world's top three carbon emitters when peat emissions are added in, according to a report sponsored by the World Bank and Britain's development arm.

"So far we have not received anything for what we have done," Witoelar said. "Now that there is a price tag for preservation, the amount of money we get will increase multifold."

Gov't policy on palm oil a 'car crash'.

Sydney Morning Herald

Govt policy on palm oil a 'car crash'

October 8, 2007 - 6:24PM
Conservation group the Humane Society International (HSI) says a new federal government move to check sources of palm oil importations has focused attention on a burgeoning deforestation problem in tropical countries.

The attraction of palm oil products as an alternative to greenhouse gas-producing fossil fuels has led to clearing of tropical forests for palm plantations, notably in Malaysia and Indonesia.
Environment Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced he would raise the issue at a United Nations climate change meeting in Bali in December, to push for a certification regime on the sourcing of palm oil products.

It follows criticism the government is spending $54 million subsidising biodiesel products derived from palm oil, a far higher figure than the $7.5 million it has allocated to help save Indonesia's rainforests.

Under the cleaner fuels grants scheme (CFGS), the government provides grants in relation to the manufacture and importation of eligible cleaner fuels, including palm oil.

Mr Turnbull said while Australia's imports of palm oil are small relative to the global industry, he had asked his department to report to him on both the domestic and international position on palm oil production and use and to consult with major palm oil importing countries, especially in Europe.

He said he intended to take a proposal to the UN climate change meeting to establish an international certification scheme.

"I am advised that the two biodiesel plants which have commenced operations in Australia in the last year and which use palm oil have both undertaken to source their feedstock through companies that abide by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO)," he said.
"The RSPO was established in 2002 to ensure palm oil was produced sustainably."

Mr Turnbull said that if palm oil was produced in areas which had previously been cleared for agriculture, biodiesel based on that palm oil did have a considerable reduction in CO2 emissions compared to petroleum.

"However, if the land is cleared of rainforest or, worse still, forested peatland is cleared, the CO2 emissions attributed to that palm oil are in fact greater than petroleum," he said.
Labor's environment spokesman Peter Garrett compared Mr Turnbull's position on the two policy issues to a car crash.

"This is the sort of public policy car crash we have come to expect from the Howard government," he said.

"It's a collision that doesn't need to happen, and wouldn't be happening if the government had been paying attention and prepared themselves for climate change over the last decade."
HSI spokeswoman Rebecca Keeble said escalating global demand for palm oil for biodiesel and as an additive in food and toiletry products had led to an increase in habitat degradation as tropical forests made way for palm oil plantations.

"Currently, there is no certification system in place that verifies that any palm oil produced, anywhere in the world, is from sustainable practices, so we commend the government for committing to furthering an international certification scheme of this nature at the UN climate change meetings in December."
© 2007 AAP

Global warming brings additional woes to orangutans

Global warming brings additional woes to orangutans

Adianto P. Simamora, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta 8th October 2007

A study predicts that global warming will further decimate the orangutan population in Sebangau National Park in Central Kalimantan, home to Indonesia's largest orangutan habitat.

About 6,900 orangutans out of the estimated 14,000 on Kalimantan Island currently occupy the 567,700-hectare park.

"The rising temperature and rainfall will have adverse consequences on plant species in the park," Chairul Saleh, the biodiversity conservation coordinator at WWF Indonesia, told The Jakarta Post on Saturday.

"The plants are sensitive to climate changes. This will threaten food supplies for the orangutans."

Orangutans are reliant on the trees and fruit for their existence.

Chairul said that coupled with the long-standing problem of forest fires, global warming would affect the reproductive cycle of the orangutans.

"It will also trigger the migration of orangutan to other forests and affect genetics, the reproduction rate and health of orangutans," he said. Female orangutans in Kalimantan currently have an interbirth interval of between six and nine years.

Experts warn that orangutans are vulnerable to malaria, tuberculosis, hepatitis and cholera.

The rising temperatures is expected to cause a big increase in the number of malaria cases.
The study on the impact of global warming on orangutan habitat in the Sebangau National Park was conducted jointly by the Jakarta-based, privately-run National University and WWF Indonesia in September.

The study says that temperatures in the Sebangau Park would rise by one degree Celsius by 2050 and three degrees by 2100 due to global warming.

Between 2000 and 2003, temperatures in the park were between 21 to 23 degrees Celsius. The WWF will present the findings of the study at the international climate-change conference in Bali in December, which will be attended by representatives of the 191 signatories to the Kyoto Protocol on climate change.

Sri Suci Utami, an orangutan researcher from the National University, said that extensive land clearance and illegal logging had significantly reduced the orangutan population. "Without global warming, orangutans are already very vulnerable to extinction thanks to rampant forest fires and illegal logging," she said.

"Thus, global warming could further expedite the loss of orangutan habitat unless the government takes immediate protective measures," she said. The Sebangau Park is a combination of mixed swampy forest, transitional forest, lowland canopy forest and granite forest, where 106 species of birds, 35 mammals and several groups of primates can be found.

The government designated the Sebangau National Park as a conservation forest in 2004. Sri, however, warned that those who cleared land by fire would use the global warming issue to expand their businesses as they could blame global warming for the loss of orangutan habitat.
The use of fire to clear land both for commercial and agricultural purposes is widely practiced in Indonesia.

The severe El Nino-induced drought in 1997-1998 led to a massive fire disaster that killed many orangutans.

"We estimate that about 2.5 percent of the 14,000 orangutans in Kalimantan were lost during the forest fires in the 1990s," Sri said.

In addition, major forest fires in 2006 also killed about 1,000 orangutans. To make it worse, most of the dead orangutans were mothers and their offspring. "Female and young orangutans will be the most vulnerable as they have the greatest difficulty in escaping," said Sri. The study recommends the establishment of monitoring stations to oversee orangutan populations, including their daily activities and food supply.

It is also recommended that local people be involved in the protection efforts being carried out in the Sebangau National Park.

Self regulate, to counter anti-palm oil lobby, says state minister

Thursday October 4, 2007

Self regulate, to counter anti-palm oil lobby, says state minister

SANDAKAN/MALAYSIA: Oil palm companies in the east Asean growth area must adopt "self regulation" through sustainable development to counter the anti-palm oil lobby.

State Industrial Development Minister Datuk Ewon Ebin said that it was necessary for them to implement sustainable oil palm development on their own to counter campaigns by the lobby that rainforests were being destroyed and the habitats of orang utans were being wiped out.

"The best regulation is self-regulation. I don't think we like the idea that one day some foreign pressure group dictates how we should grow our oil palm.

"We might find ourselves compelled to follow what they say because our palm oil depends on foreign markets," Ewon said.

He was speaking at the opening of the Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia and Philippines - East Asean Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA) oil palm stake holders forum here.

He said the BIMP-EAGA grouping with some help from institutions like the Asian Development Bank could send a "loud and clear" message that sustainability is the key to the longevity of the oil palm industry.

Ewon noted that the oil palm industry has been the subject of intense negative campaign for many years, but Malaysia and Indonesia have successfully defended the industry.

"It remains a serious irritant. From misleading the public about the nutritional qualities of palm oil, the lobbyists have now turned their focus on the issues of sustainability and alleged destruction of rainforests and orang utan habitats by oil palm companies," he said.

"Pollution affects you and me. Climate change will not pick and choose which country to impact. We owe it to ourselves to self-regulate so that our oil palm industry will be accepted by the world, and we play our role as citizens of this earth to preserve it for our future generations," he added.

He said oil palm stake holders should look into the industry's diverse environmental challenges.
They included land clearing, displacement of people and animals, extinction of species, effluent discharge, clean development mechanism, emission reduction and oil spills in ports and harbours.

"We are the producing and exporting countries and have no alternative but to live by sustainability," he said at the forum organised by POIC Sabah.

Saturday, 6 October 2007

Papua's forests and global warming

Papua's forests and global warming
Neles Tebay, Abepura, Papua

Papua is the size of California and is almost entirely covered by vast stretches of virgin rain forest spread over 41.5 million hectares -- or 23 percent of Indonesia's total forested area of 180 million hectares.

But some 22 million hectares of these forests are classified as production forests, rather than conservation areas.

Indonesian control over the territory of Papua has seen the region's forests suffer deforestation at the hands of foreign and domestic private companies.

First, during the Soeharto regime, Papua's forests were targeted by logging industries authorized by the Jakarta-based central government. Up until 2001, as many as 40 logging companies -- none of which were owned by the indigenous Papuans -- were active in Papua, with permission from the central government.

The timber companies, without any interference, were able to cut down trees in Papua and sell them to foreign countries. According to Greenpeace, more than 25 percent of Papua's natural forests has been sold by timber firms exporting to Japan, the U.S., European countries and China.

Second, as the timber business is worth billions of dollars annually, Papua's forests have also been targeted by illegal logging companies. Pressure on Papua's forests has progressively increased due to overseas demand, notably from China.

In 2003, some 7.2 million cubic meters of timber was reportedly smuggled out of Papua.

An investigation carried out by the London-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) revealed "illegal logging in Papua typically involves the collusion of the Indonesian military, the involvement of Malaysian logging gangs and the exploitation of indigenous communities".

Due to deforestation in Papua, both legal and illegal, Indonesia has been listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the country with the fastest pace of deforestation in the world. (The Jakarta Post, June 4, 2007).

Indeed, Papua's forests have contributed approximately US$100 million to the central government annually. Third, despite the government's efforts to combat unauthorized logging activities, Papua's forests continue to suffer from illegal logging. Furthermore, Papua's forests are now being targeted by the palm oil industry as well as the timber industry.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has already asked Papua's governor Barnabas Suebu to open up five million hectares of land for conversion into palm oil plantations, in a drive to increase biofuel production and reduce state spending on domestic petrol subsidies (The Wall Street Journal, Aug. 10, 2007).

The government of Malaysia, the world's largest palm oil producer, invited Suebu to see for himself how palm oil plantations can spur economic growth.

Plantation companies from Jakarta and Malaysia have been running out of space in other parts of Indonesia. Meanwhile, European demand for biofuel remains strong, therefore Papua's virgin forests will continue to be targeted by palm oil producers.

China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) and its Indonesian partner, PT. Sinar Mas Agro Resources &Technology, have announced they signed an agreement with Jakarta to invest $5 billion over eight years to develop palm oil plantations in Papua.

PT Sinar Mas is expected to clear some 1,2 million hectares of Papua's rain forests in Boven Digul, Merauke and Mappi regencies to make way for palm-oil plantations.

Meanwhile, a Korean company in collaboration with a national company, is also planning to fell trees to clear the path for palm oil plantations. So, it is clear that some millions of hectares of Papua's virgin forests will be deliberately cleared by government-authorized palm oil companies.

In other words, deforestation in Papua for the sake of the palm oil industry is being permitted by the government.

The government and the palm oil companies should be reminded that rain forests play a key role in maintaining the world's environmental balance. They need to realize that deforestation in Papua causes not only environmental damage to the western half of the island of New Guinea, but also affects global warming.

As the government destroys more and more hectares of Papua's forests in the name of economic growth, a global warning on deforestation is urgently needed and should be raised by parties in Papua, Jakarta and from other nations.

Clearing our ancient forests to make way for economy-boosting palm oil plantations is not the only way to enhance economic growth in the country. The government should seek other ways to improve economic growth in Papua, and in general, Indonesia.

The writer is a lecturer at the Fajar Timur School of Philosophy and Theology in Abepura, Papua.
printer friendly

Postcard Campaign raising awareness.

Postcard Campaign helps bring an end to
the slaughter of thousands more orangutans.

This postcard campaign has been very successful to date in helping British food retailers understand the problems and help apply pressure on the palm oil industry. To date, food retailers like Sainsburys, Waitrose and Asda has been both positive and helpful.

But! We could still do with more cards being sent.
Do you live in the UK and think you might be able to help? The cards are in sets of four, all
pre-addressed to household name supermarkets.

If you can help, please let us know how many
sets of cards you would like, along with your postal address - UK only please.

Send us an email sw@naturealert.org

Thank you for caring.

Friday, 5 October 2007

Green campaign dents palm oil demand

COMMENT: Further evidence of the impact our postcard campaign is having. If you are helping us, you are part of the solution, whilst others sit, watch and just 'hope' things will get better without them having to actually do anything.

Green campaign dents palm oil demand
Mon Oct 1, 2007 9:48am EDT Reuters

by Naveen Thukral
KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - A campaign by environment groups against palm oil is costing the product market share in Europe, a top Malaysian palm oil industry official said on Monday.
Palm oil, used as food and in products ranging from cosmetics to biofuel, has come under fire from environmentalists in Europe and America who say the rapid expansion in palm cultivation is responsible for vanishing tropical forests and wildlife.

"Trade will take note if negative campaigns are launched against a particular commodity, especially if it creates a lot of uncertainty," said Yusof Basiron, chief executive of industry-funded Malaysian Palm Oil Council. "When you bash a product then some people will stay away from it and when you reduce demand, obviously the price tends to weaken."

Scientists have warned biofuels are likely to speed up global warming as they have encouraged farmers to burn tropical forests that have absorbed a large portion of greenhouse gases.
Greenpeace says Indonesia had the fastest pace of deforestation in the world between 2000-2005, with an area of forest equivalent to 300 soccer pitches destroyed every hour.

Yusof said oil palm cultivation is not responsible for the destruction of rainforests.
"We grow our oil palm on legitimate agricultural land just like soybean and rapeseed are grown on legitimate agricultural land," he told Reuters in an interview

But conservationists are not convinced.
Friends of the Earth says almost 90 percent of orangutan habitat has now disappeared and if the destruction continues, Asia's only great ape could become extinct in 12 years.
The group questions U.K. supermarkets selling palm oil on their corporate social responsibility, and has urged that financiers screen future investments in plantations for adverse environmental affects.

Palm plantations now cover more than 4 million hectares in Malaysia, and firms are expanding fast in neighboring Indonesia where it is grown on some 6 million hectares.

Official data shows European palm oil imports from Malaysia fell 17.5 percent to 1.32 million tones between January and August this year compared with a year ago period. Over the same period Malaysia's total palm exports fell 4.5 percent to 5.15 million tones.
"If palm oil exports to Europe are going to be subjected to very stringent sustainability certification while other oilseeds coming from tropical areas are not subjected to such certification then there will be a trade distortion," said Yusof, who is leading a fight to defend the palm oil industry. "This will create a trade barrier of some sort."

Palm oil, produced mainly in Malaysia and Indonesia, has almost doubled in price since January 2006, but still sells at a $60 discount to soybean oil and around a $300 discount to rapeseed oil.
On Monday, the benchmark December contract (KPOZ7: on the Bursa Malaysia Derivatives Exchange was quoted at 2,641 ringgit ($779) a ton, just 4 percent shy of an historic high reached in June. Yusof blamed bad publicity for the discount on palm oil.

"If there is no real reduction in consumption or there is substantial increase in off take, obviously the price discount that we see now will not be there."

Indonesia: The biofuel blowback

COMMENT: A very revealing article. Local villagers are now protesting against palm oil companies. It's not just international protests - but we do need to keep up pressure for the industry and government to bring a halt to the destruction of so much rainforest and wildlife.
It is much easier for those of us overseas, as we don't have to face the threats and intimidation that local people are confronted with. PLEASE KEEP SENDING IN THE POSTCARDS.

Indonesia: The biofuel blowback

James PainterOctober 04, 2007

A boom in palm-oil production in Indonesia is rendering poor farmers landless and triggering social conflict, reports James Painter.

What has the welfare of a remote, dirt-poor hamlet in deepest Borneo got to do with global warming? There is an important connection and it goes like this.

Europe needs to lessen its dependence on fossil fuels in order to reduce carbon emissions. The European Union’s target, set in March 2007, is to replace at least 10% of its transport fossil fuel with biofuels by 2020.

Prices for palm oil have risen sharply since early 2006 largely because of increased demand for food and other products in the booming economies of China and India, but to a significant degree due to the expectation of growing European demand.

Indonesia has embarked on a headlong rush to grow more palm oil. It is set to overtake Malaysia in 2007 and become the world’s largest producer. The two countries aim to supply 20% of Europe’s biofuels by 2009.

One of the best places to grow palm oil is on cleared land that was previously virgin rainforest. West Kalimantan is one such place. It is situated in the Indonesian part of Borneo, and is one of the main boom areas for palm oil. So are international climate- change solutions helping the local indigenous populations there? Or could they if conditions were right?

Masters no more
It’s an odyssey by four-wheel drive or motorbike to get to the village of Aruk, near the Malaysian border. Chatting to the villagers there, the overwhelming sense is of anger tinged with sadness. Alexander, a 36-year-old Dayak Kanayan, had been ill in bed for several days last year.

One morning, feeling better, he walked to his nearby four-hectare plot where he grew rubber and tropical fruits like durian, mangosteen and jackfruit. He was shocked to discover that they had been destroyed by bulldozers belonging to an Indonesian company called Dutapalma.
“I used to feed my family mainly from that land”, Alexander complains, still clearly distraught more than a year later. “We had more than enough to eat. Now I have lost my land, I have to go to Malaysia to work as a construction worker so I can feed my three children. But my income is not enough compared to when I had my piece of land.”

The company offered him compensation of $0.30 for each of his rubber trees. “The company has to pay me the right price”, he says. “Deep in my heart I feel I don’t want to let go of my land. But if I have to, they have to pay me.”

About twenty-five families from Aruk have lost their land to the company and are yet to receive compensation. At a rowdy public meeting they show me their drawing of where their small plots have been taken over by palm oil. The company received the concession from the district governor, known as the bupati. The villagers have no legal papers and can only appeal to customary land rights.

In desperation, about 300 of them in April seized the company’s bulldozer and trucks. The police intervened and gave the heavy equipment back.

Some of the villagers are now itching to step up the protests. They feel they are losing land owned by their ancestors without a fight. “Burn down the company offices”, some shout. But others are more conciliatory, preferring to do a deal and grow palm oil to supply the company mill. They all agree they want to remain “masters of their own land”.

Rich, powerful and secretive
There is a similar story of growing conflict across West Kalimantan, largely driven by the international demand for palm oil. Sawit Watch, an Indonesian NGO, says the number of communities involved in conflicts here has mushroomed to more than fifty since 2005, and to about 400 for the whole of the country.

Indonesian and foreign companies are keen to grab a slice of the commodity boom. The concessions they have received just in West Kalimantan have risen from about 0.5 million hectares in the 1990s to more than 3.2 million now - about six times the size of the tourist island of Bali. More than 20 million hectares have been assigned nationwide.

It’s a similar story of conflict in the Kembayan district near Sanggau. In an arrangement typical of many, in 1997 around 500 villagers gave up about seven hectares of their ancestral land to a company in exchange for being allowed to keep two hectares to grow their own palm oil.
The Salim group conglomerate is now the owner of the original concession of about 35,000 hectares. But the smallholders say they have still not received their two hectares each. In frustration they too have started protests.

In June 2007, about ten of them were arrested and questioned by the local police because they had been harvesting the company’s palm oil on what they said was their land and selling it to another mill. They were released but say they will continue to harvest unless the company agrees to several demands.

“The essential problem is that local people are not told what is going on or about the potential risks and benefits of growing palm oil”, says Norsianus, the advocacy coordinator for the SPKS, an NGO supporting the smallholders. “The companies are very rich, very powerful but not transparent.”

The clearing game
It’s virtually impossible to tell whether the palm oil harvested in these areas of West Kalimantan will end up in Europe as a biofuel. It’s just as likely to be going to China, India or Pakistan. But NGOs inside and outside Indonesia are getting increasingly worried about the nationwide boom, and whether poor farmers can benefit.

They say the growing number of social conflicts is another, less publicised, downside to palm oil as an alternative to fossil fuels. A series of recent reports have already criticised it for compounding Indonesia’s alarming rate of deforestation.

The United Nations warn that natural forests in Indonesia are being cleared so rapidly that up to 98% may be destroyed by 2022, threatening the habitat of the orang-utan. Wetlands International says many new plantations are allocated on peatlands; when these are dried out, they contribute more Co2 to the atmosphere than the use of fossil fuels.

Indonesian ministers dispute the claims made by NGOs. They have long argued that palm-oil development can reduce fossil-fuel dependency and provide important revenue and jobs. But they add that in their view, illegal logging - not palm oil - is the main driver of deforestation; and that palm oil is mostly planted on degraded or abandoned land.

Critics say many palm-oil plantations are providing cover for illegal timber operations, which clear forests with no intention of planting. However, a lack of reliable statistics makes it difficult to confirm the rate of deforestation and its causes. Even official figures are often contradictory.
Global pressure, local landscape.

NGOs are confident that there is momentum in Europe for more company and government action to curb irresponsible palm-oil development. For example, Friends of the Earth Netherlands published a report in July 2007 accusing the Singapore-based company Wilmar of illegal forest clearances in West Kalimantan and making inadequate environmental-impact assessments.

It called on suppliers to revise their relations with Wilmar, which is reputedly the world’s largest palm-oil company. The company denies the allegations. The World Bank, which lends money to Wilmar, is due to make an on-the-spot investigation in September. In July 2007, the Asda supermarket chain told suppliers it would not accept products unless they could guarantee their palm oil is from plantations run in a sustainable manner; and in the same month, the Body Shop said that it wants to source only sustainable palm oil for its soap.

A decisive meeting will take place in Kuala Lumpur on 20-22 November 2007 of the industry-led Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), whose members include manufacturers such as NestlĂ© and L’Oreal, retailers such as Carrefour and Marks & Spencer, and NGOs such as Oxfam and WWF.

The meeting is expected to set out tighter criteria for identifying good practice, separating the responsible companies from the rogues, and certifying certain sustainable plantations. However, the RSPO is not a policing force and its members represent only a third of internationally traded palm-oil production.

The wider issue at stake, common to the debate about other biofuels like maize and ethanol, is who will really benefit - large agro-industrial companies or small producers? In Indonesia, several hundred thousand smallholders grow palm oil alongside large state and private companies.

Development workers fear that they may find it more difficult to meet new standards for sustainable palm oil. “Small producers need more land than two hectares each, no price-fixing by the companies and better credit terms”, says Norsianus of the SPKS, “and then palm oil might help alleviate poverty.”
Source: http://www.chinadialogue.net/article/show/single/en/1370

Now that our rainforests are gone, they want biofuel

Now that our rainforests are gone, they want biofuel - Malaysiakini.com
Noor Aza OthmanSep 21, 07 3:19pm

The Malaysian capitalist palm oil corporations are using the ever readily modified language game to simultaneously deceive and appease European and American consumers, NGOs and activists, particularly in Europe since Europe has the strictest socio-environmental laws in the world.

Hijacking and manipulating the agenda of the global warming crisis, the language game of such corporations now is not anymore about ‘expanding’ the palm oil industry” but ‘to expand to maximum capacity, the (supposedly sustainable) biodiesel industry.

Such expansion has been and continues to be at the most tragic cost of the Third World’s human and environmental rights and includes the destruction of ancient rainforests, wildlife and the socio-environmental rights of traditional indigenous communities, mainly in Malaysia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Cambodia. As with the logging industry, some of the plantation products might be exported to China first, before being processed and exported into Europe.

What is ironic is that some gullible Europeans have bought the idea that biodiesel including that from palm oil, to replace petrol especially for cars, is necessary to construct a less polluted West besides contribute to a reduction in global warming. But how they forgot that the destruction of rainforests for logging and palm oil plantations has been proven to contribute to a warmer world all over?

The propaganda campaigns by the capitalist palm oil corporations continue. An uncritical and simplistic report by Al Jazeera recently praised Sweden for aggressively leading the way in replacing petroleum with biodiesel without questioning what kind of biodiesel it was. And as has been reported recently in the Malaysian media, the Swedish Trade Minister who, after meeting up with Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil secretary-general in Malaysia) demanded that there be an increase in the export of biofuel from palm oil to Europe. This minister, whom I can presume has not travelled out from his luxurious comfort zone to Borneo, would have been stricken with shame if he had seen for himself the extent of the destruction of our ancient tropical rainforests and the poverty and suffering of our indigenous communities due to mass logging and plantation activities.

Further, there is also an increase in the export of our wildlife for barbaric and vicious animal experimentation and vivisection, as recently announced in the new law to lift the ban on the export of long-tailed macaques. It is most likely that many of these wildlife are caught while the forests are being cleared. A few days ago, a giant Malaysian palm oil corporation called IJMP Sdn Bhd said it would clear thousands of hectares of beautiful coastal region in Sandakan in Sabah for biofuel development which will be exported mostly to Europe and the US. It looks like our liberation from British capitalist colonisation has been hijacked tragically by the local capitalist class and that includes the bumiputera capitalist class.

It is this extremely greedy, ruthless, corrupted and primitive capitalist class of politicians and corporations that have really betrayed this once glorious nation-state which used to have such a beautiful natural environment that included diverse wildlife. That’s how I remember it, running wildly and happily in my childhood through the villages and ricefields, swimming in clean rivers and oceans, trekking through the beautiful rainforests and mountains and walking on remote resort- free sandy beaches.

I am not merely trying to be nostalgic but would like to remind all that it is still possible to save whatever is left of our natural environment. Foremost for that, we need the help of Europe’s socio-environmental conscious consumers and NGOs since Europe is the second biggest importer of our logs and an increasing importer of our palm oil and other mass plantation products.

Hopefully, other big importers of our logs and palm oil products such as the US, Japan, India and the Middle East will also assist us. Such help can be in any way including writing or calling on their left (especially from the Green and Socialist parties) members of parliament to debate this issue in their European parliaments and ultimately for NGOs to promote a ban on both our logging and plantation products. This ban should be in place until Malaysia and other Southeast Asian governments truly improve in upholding their environmental responsibilities. Europe should lead the way if need be (but not through imperialism or superior-thinking) but it seems as if Europe itself has long forgotten and long neglected its own responsibility towards the world’s environment.