Thursday, 26 June 2008

Highway plan in Indonesia's Papua threatens forests: NGOs

Highway plan in Indonesia's Papua threatens forests: NGOs

JAKARTA (AFP) — An Indonesian plan to build a highway through the forests of Papua risks opening the door to massive deforestation in the jungle-clad half-island, environment groups said Wednesday.

The 4,500 kilometre (2,796 mile) Trans-Papua highway between the provinces of Papua and West Papua would lead to an explosion in palm oil plantations and allow easy access for illegal loggers, Greenpeace and Papuan NGOs said in a statement.

The planned road "would not only result in irreversible biodiversity loss and consequent ecological disaster, it will have a devastating impact on the lives and livelihood of the Papuan people," Greenpeace campaigner Bustar Maitar said.

The NGOs urged the government to properly consult local Papuans before going ahead with highway, which is the cornerstone of a 2007 plan by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to develop the resource-rich but impoverished provinces.

The plan comes as Indonesian officials eye Papua's vast wilderness as a potential site for more palm oil plantations to cash in on voracious global demand for the crop.

Palm oil plantations could be created on between three and four million hectares (up to 9.8 million acres) of suitable land in the two provinces, an agriculture ministry official told AFP in May.

Indonesia, the world's largest palm oil producer, also has one of the highest levels of deforestation, with weak law enforcement and widespread corruption allowing illegal landclearing and logging to flourish.