Thursday, 5 June 2008

President Yudhoyono calls for mass tree planting


President Yudhoyono calls for mass tree plantingJakarta (ANTARA News)

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono marked World Environment Day on Thursday with a call for citizens to make a bigger effort to plant trees across the massive archipelago.

Indonesia planted some 79 million trees in a day-long event ahead of a global climate change conference on the resort island of Bali in December, but Yudhoyono said the nation had to do more.With soaring food prices adding to concerns over climate change, he said people should consider planting fruit-bearing trees.

"Let's continue to plant more trees," he was quoted by AFP as saying in a speech to commemorate World Environment Day.

"I have ordered the forestry minister to lead this movement and to choose coconut and breadfruit," he said.

But the president failed to mention some of the most glaring environmental issues facing his country, such as illegal logging, the fight to protect endangered species and the wholesale destruction of forests for plantations.

Indonesia is the world's biggest producer of palm oil which is enjoying a boom on the back of strong global demand and tight supply, driving a massive expansion in the amount of forested land being converted to plantations.

Pressure groups including Greenpeace have called for a moratorium on new plantations in Indonesia to prevent an environmental crisis.The government however announced last month it was looking at its vast easternmost provinces in Papua to expand its palm oil industry.

Meanwhile one of the biggest populations of wild orangutans on Borneo will be extinct in three years without drastic measures to stop the unchecked spread of plantations, conservationists say.

More than 30,000 wild orangutans live in the forests of Indonesia's Central Kalimantan province, or more than half the entire orangutan population of Borneo island, which is shared between Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei.

Experts believe the overall extinction rate of Borneo orangutans is nine percent per year, but in Central Kalimantan they are disappearing even faster due to plantation expansion and the destruction of habitat.

The destruction of Indonesia's forests is seen as a major contributor to global warming and climate change.World Environment Day, commemorated each year on June 5 since 1972, is the initiative of the United Nations Environment Programme. (*)