Thursday, 12 November 2009

Indonesia's Papua in environmental peril: leaders

Indonesia's Papua in environmental peril: leaders


JAYAPURA — Logging and agribusiness is threatening environmental destruction in Indonesia's Papua region, one of the world's last vast wildernesses, local leaders said on Thursday.

The governors of the two provinces in the region on the western end of New Guinea island told an international environmental conference a strategy was needed to avoid the mistakes that have decimated other Indonesian regions.

"Pressure and threats to biodiversity in Papua are increasing. Papua is becoming a target for massive agro and forestry industry investment," West Papua Governor Abraham Atururi said at the conference, jointly organised with environmental groups WWF and Conservation International.

Atururi said his government had received an increasing number of requests for development and feared environmental destruction from illegal logging aimed at clearing land for plantations.

"Papua should not repeat the failure to manage forests and biodiversity that has happened in Kalimantan (Borneo) and Sumatra," he said, referring to massive development on those islands that has seen tropical forests dwindle.

The governor of Papua province, which sits on the eastern end of the region, Barnabas Suebu, said preserving the tropical forest-blanketed region was key to helping absorb the gases that cause climate change.

"The capacity of Papua's 42 million hectares (104 million acres) of forests to process CO2 is equivalent to the carbon footprint of nearly all the population of Europe," Suebu said.

Indonesia, which spreads across over 17,000 islands, has been a key advocate for plans being floated ahead of global climate talks in Copenhagen in December that would see developing countries paid to conserve forests and peatlands.

Deforestation, largely on Borneo and Sumatra, has seen the country become the world's third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases.

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