Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Hundreds of hectares of forests in Leuser National Park cleared

Hundreds of hectares of forests in Leuser National Park cleared

Banda Aceh (ANTARA News) - Hundreds of hectares of forests within the Gunung Leuser National Park (TNGL) have been cleared by local people to obtain land for corn and cacao cultivation.

Forests along the Alas River situated between Muara Situlen and Batu Injin of Southeast Aceh district have been seriously damaged, a spokesperson of the International Leuser Foundation (YLI), Chik Rini, said here Tuesday.

The illegal activity had been going on for the past two months, she said.Rini said, hectares of area on the right side of the river were cleared , and people had now begun to cut trees within the Leuser Ecosystem Area (KEL) on the left side of Alas River.

The people planted the cleared area with corn and cacao while the wood was used to build cabins for their families, Rini said.She called on the government to take stern measures to stop the activity to avoid further damage to the forests that could threaten people living in the downstream area of Subulussalam and Aceh Singkil districts.

"Now, floods always hit the two areas every year claiming many lives," she added.In addition, she said, Alas River was a potential area for ecotourism, especially for rafting where tourists could enjoy the views from Leuser forest, and see wild animals such as elephants, orangutan, gibbon and hornbills.

Now, those animals were rarely seen in the area, she said. In the period 1994-2004, some 40 foreign tourists visited Southeast Aceh every month for rafting in Alas River and tracking in the Gunung Leuser National Park to watch wild life.(*)