June 15, 2009
Greenpeace Calls for Action on Forests
International environmental watchdog Greenpeace on Monday criticized President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono for failing to act on climate change, including the destruction of the country’s forests.
“Rather than the government acting decisively, we are seeing organizations like Greenpeace threatened with prosecution for calling for investigations and demanding answers,” said Bustar Maitar, forest campaigner of Greenpeace Southeast Asia. “Communities are under attack while forests go up in smoke.”
In a written statement, Bustar said the Indonesian delegation remained silent during last week’s climate talks in Bonn, Germany, even though the country’s rainforests were burning and releasing millions of tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, habitats of endangered species like the orangutan and Sumatran tiger were being destroyed, and communities were clashing with companies over land disputes .
“President Yudhoyono must act now, or he will be responsible for runaway climate change. Only by declaring and implementing a moratorium on deforestation can the country gain the space necessary to resolve the social and environmental crises we are facing,” Maitar said.
Many of the fires and incidents of community violence occurred in areas recently allocated for conversion by the Minister of Forestry in Sumatra’s Riau province, largely on carbon-rich forest peatlands.
In April, Greenpeace filed a request with the Corruption Commission (KPK) to investigate the release of the concessions in question. In response, lawyers representing Forestry Minister M.S. Kaban have demanded the withdrawal of the complaint and threatened Greenpeace with legal action.
Deforestation, the organization said, was the largest contributor to Indonesia’s greenhouse gas emissions, which are the third highest globally.
It is illegal to clear land using fire in the country, yet the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration has recorded 2,643 fire hotspots so far this year in Riau alone. Activists have said that many of these forest fires were started illegally to clear rainforest for palm oil or pulp and paper plantations.
“If the government doesn’t stop deforestation now, further climate change will destroy agriculture and further impoverish the region’s people,” warned Blucher Doloksaribu, head of the Riau Meteorology and Geophysics Agency (BMG) .
On May 28, a protest in Rokan Hulu district in Riau against the APRIL pulp and paper company over land tenure was brutally suppressed, resulting in the deaths of three villagers, Greenpeace said.