Monday, 26 October 2009

Activists to Highlight Riau Deforestation

October 26, 2009

Budi Otmansyah

Activists to Highlight Riau Deforestation

Greenpeace activists will live in the heart of the Kampar forest area in Riau for several weeks to draw attention to the impact of deforestation on climate change.

About 200 people welcomed the activists at the makeshift headquarters built in the jungle where destruction of peatland forest by pulp, paper and palm oil industries is well known.

Peatland forest is critical for maintaining biodiversity, Greenpeace has stated, and its degradation releases vast stores of carbon that contribute to global warming.

The Kampar Peninsular contains some of the largest remaining intact peatland forests in Sumatra, which activists say are being drained and cleared for industrial expansion by companies.

Kampar consists entirely of a single peat dome, with peat depths mostly over 10 meters, forming an enormous store of carbon. As the peat is waterlogged, drainage and development in one area will have an impact on the remaining natural forest.

“We take the frontline position when campaigning against forest and climate destruction,” said Bustar Maitar, a spokesman for Greenpeace on forestry issues in Southeast Asia.

“We want to tell world leaders that to avoid climate change hazards, they must stop deforestation now.”

A report in 2006 from Wetlands International said Indonesia’s peatlands emitted around 2 billion tons of carbon-dioxide each year, far higher than the country’s emissions from energy, agriculture and waste, which together only amounted to 451 million tons.

This places Indonesia as the world’s third largest carbon emitter after the United States and China.

Bustar added that many regions surrounding the Kampar Peninsular had already been destroyed for plantation development, particularly focused on oil palm.

He said that last week, Asean leaders already declared their support for the world climate summit in Copenhagen at the end of the year.

Shailendra Yashwant, the campaign director for Greenpeace in Southeast Asia, said that to end global deforestation, developed nations needed to invest $45 billion per year in forest protection programs, such as President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s commitment to ending forest and peatland destruction in Indonesia.

At a recent UN climate meeting in Bangkok, Indonesia promised to drastically reduce carbon emissions.

Globally, Shailendra said, millions of hectares of forests were destroyed every month — equivalent to a football pitch-sized area destroyed every two seconds — causing massive carbon emissions, making deforestation the primary causes of climate change.