Saturday, 11 October 2008

Palm oil clearing swathes of forest in Indonesia's Papua: Greenpeace

Palm oil clearing swathes of forest in Indonesia's Papua: Greenpeace

JAKARTA (AFP) — Palm oil companies are clearing massive swathes of untouched forest in Indonesia's remote easternmost Papua region, environmental group Greenpeace said Friday.

"Palm oil companies have obtained the land conversion permits for tens of thousand of hectares," Greenpeace campaigner Bustar Maitar told AFP.
Observations from the air in the Lereh region near Papuan capital Jayapura showed palm oil producers including Indonesian giant Sinar Mas had started widespread clearing to make way for palm oil plantations, Maitar said.

Continued clearing and expansion of the concessions will have a devastating impact on Papua's forests, Maitar said, adding the land-clearing is allowed under Indonesian law.

Greenpeace in a statement called for an immediate moratorium on all forest conversion in Papua, which has so far been largely isolated from Indonesia's palm oil boom by poor transport links.

Fears are that the expansion of palm oil and logging could send Papua down the road of other Indonesian islands Sumatra and Borneo, where land-clearing and the illegal logging that has followed has stripped once-great forests.

"It is crucial that the last remaining intact tracts of Indonesia's forest are protected in order to combat climate change," Maitar said in the statement.
Local people in the area are heavily reliant on the forest for food and building materials and face the collapse of communities if clearing goes ahead, Greenpeace said.

"The locals can't depend on getting basic necessities from Java island or other places. And because of climate change, they can't predict the timing of rice harvests," Maitar said.

Sinar Mas could not be reached for comment.
Land-clearing for palm oil is a major source of deforestation in Indonesia, where the clearing of forests has pushed the country into the position of the world's third-highest carbon emitter.

Papua, which occupies the western end of New Guinea island, is a largely inaccessible region of highlands and thick forests that has been under the control of Jakarta since the 1960s.

Foreign journalists are barred from the region without a special permit.