Monday, 11 February 2008

Indonesians being tricked out of rainforest land

Indonesians being tricked out of rainforest land

By Paul Eccleston
Last Updated: 1:01pm GMT 11/02/2008

Native peoples who depend on the rainforest for survival are being tricked out of their land by corrupt officials so they can grow lucrative biofuel crops, according to environmental groups. Forests that have supported generations of native peoples are being snatched and levelled for palm oil plantations, says Friends of the Earth

Unscrupulous companies are using force or conning families in the Indonesian rainforests into giving up their rights to the land by promising jobs and new developments.

In its report Losing Ground FoE claims people end up in poorly paid work and locked into debt while the companies profit from palm oil plantations which destroy the forest and pollute village water supplies.

It blames the rush to biofuels for fuelling demand for the huge amount of land needed to grow oil palm and calls on the EU to scrap its 10 per cent target for road transport biofuels by 2010.
The report claims that although the EU wants to use biofuels sustainably it has not addressed the problems caused by its production and this will lead to more of the types of problems seen in Indonesia.

More than 85 per cent of the worlds palm oil is produced in plantations in Indonesia and Malaysia. Indonesia alone plans a further 20m hectares of plantations by 2020 - an area the size of England, Holland and Switzerland combined.

The palm oil industry says that plantation expansion is vital for economic development and methods used are both environmentally sustainable and benefit the local people. In reality little else survives in the plantations and half the habitat of the orang-utan lost in the last decade has been linked to palm oil plantation expansion.

The deforestation and drainage of peat swamps for palm oil production has made Indonesia the third highest emitter of green house gases after the USA and China.

FoE, which worked with environment groups Sawit Watch and LifeMosaic on the report, says there is mounting evidence that biofuels cannot deliver on the reduction needed in CO2 emissions to combat climate change.

Hannah Griffiths, Friends of the Earth biofuels campaigner, said: "This report shows that as well as being bad for the environment, biofuels from palm oil are a disaster for people. MEPs should listen to the evidence and use the forthcoming debate on this in the European Parliament to reject the 10 per cent target.

"Instead of introducing targets for more biofuels the EU should insist that all new cars are designed to be super efficient. The UK Government must also take a strong position against the 10 per cent target in Europe and do its bit to reduce transport emissions by improving public transport and making it easier for people to walk and cycle."

The environment groups have been helping communities affected by palm oil plantations in Indonesia since 2005 to give an insight into the social, economic and cultural impacts of oil palm plantations.

Serge Marti from LifeMosaic said: "Indonesia is a uniquely diverse country whose communities and environment are being sacrificed for the benefit of a handful of companies and wealthy individuals.

"This report should help the Indonesian government to recognise that there is a problem, and to step up efforts to protect the rights of communities. In Europe we must realise that encouraging large fuel companies to grab community land across the developing world is no solution to climate change. The EU must play its part by abandoning its 10 per cent target for biofuels."
Abetnego Tarigan, deputy director of Sawit Watch, said: "Oil palm companies have already taken over 7.3 million hectares of land for plantations, resulting in 513 ongoing conflicts between companies and communities.

"Given the negative social and environmental impacts of oil palm, Sawit Watch demands reform of the Indonesian oil palm plantation system and a re-think of plantation expansion plans."