Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Riau Seeking Compensation From Advanced Countries

December 01, 2009 14:12 PM

Riau Seeking Compensation From Advanced Countries

JAKARTA, Dec 1 (Bernama) -- While Greenpeace recently put Riau's forests in the international spotlight, Riau authorities have said that advanced countries should help compensate its forest preservation efforts, Indonesia's Antara news agency reported.

"We in Riau need funds to protect the forests from illegal logging activities and to solve the root of the illegal logging problem, namely poverty among the local community," Zulkifli Yusuf, head of the Riau provincial forest service, said in Pekanbaru last week.

Advanced and neighbouring countries should give concrete aid for the protection of the province's forests which have contributed fresh air to the whole world, especially close neighbouring countries for at least nine months every year, he said.

Zulkifli said it would not be fair if international NGOs and some advanced countries demanded Indonesia to protect its forests and bear the costs alone, while other benefiting countries contributed nothing for the forest preservation done by Indonesia, he said.

He said 8.5-million-hectare-large Riau Province has 4.3 million hectares of forest areas, consisting of permanent production forest measuring 1.6 million ha, limited forest production of 1.8 hectares, and 279,000 hectares of protected forest.

"A representative from an advanced country came here and promised to give Rp10 million (US$3,582) for every hectare of forest area which is protected. But it's just an empty promise while the people of Riau need food everyday and can't wait for empty promises made by advanced countries," he said.

The Riau official statement was made coinciding with the presence of Greenpeace Southeast Asia in Kampar Peninsula forest in Riau Province.

Greenpeace had established a Climate Defenders' Camp in the heart of the Sumatran rainforest in the Riau forest since the end of October to focus on international attention on the critical role that protecting tropical forests has in averting climate change in the run-up to the UN Copenhagen Climate Summit, which begins on 7 December.

The international NGO, however, handed over the Defenders Camp to local communities on Sunday.

"The `Climate Defenders Camp` stands as a symbol of our solidarity with the local communities in their fight to end deforestation in the Kampar Peninsula. We will keep working with them and our other partners on this issue. We will ensure that their voices, as well as those of many others who desire a decent and habitable world for their children, are heard in Jakarta and in Copenhagen", said Von Hernandez, Executive Director, Greenpeace Southeast Asia, at the handover ceremony.

Vowing to keep taking their message directly to President Susilo and other world leaders, Greenpeace says that thousands of people worldwide have sent petitions and letters to the Indonesian leader urging him to take immediate steps to halt deforestation and peatland destruction in the country, which accounts for the vast majority of Indonesia`s emissions.

"The Indonesian government should thank Greenpeace for helping them to protect the forests, as the government doesn`t seem to have much of an idea how to do this at the moment. The government needs to look closely at the problems Greenpeace has raised regarding forestry regulations and the issuance of permits and should take urgent action", said Intsiawati Ayus, National Member of Parliament for Riau Province who attended the handover ceremony and who will be participating in the Copenhagen climate talks.

Von Hernandez said his group had worked over the last five weeks with local communities to protect the Kampar Peninsula had shown world leaders that forest protection was an important piece of the solution if the world was to avert climate chaos.

"World leaders cannot waste any more time in delivering a fair, ambitious and legally binding climate deal in December. We will continue to press our demands for such a deal to include a commitment to set up a global fund to end deforestation in countries like Indonesia," added Bustar Maitar, Greenpeace Southeast Asia Forest campaigner.

Responding to the Greenpeace action in Riau, Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan in Jakarta on November 19, ordered APRIL (Riau Andalan Pulp and Paper - RAPP) mill to halt its forest clearing activity on the carbon-rich peatlands of the Kampar Peninsula, pending review of their permits.

Greenpeace campaigner Bustar Maitar hailed the decision and expected the Forestry Minister to do a comprehensive review of all the existing permits and concessions for pulp and paper companies in the Kampar Peninsula.

Meanwhile, Indonesian new State Minister for Environmental Affairs Gusti Muhammad Hatta in Banjarmasin last Friday (Nov. 27) said the rate of forest destruction in Indonesia reaches 1.1 million hectares a year.

He said the government meanwhile could only rehabilitate up to 500,000 hectares a year.

He said temperature had now rose up to four degrees making the sea level to rise up to 80 centimeters high.

If the condition is ignored 30 to 40 million people in the country would be threatened to become victims of the impact of global warming such as floods, natural disasters and others.

Forestry minister Zulkifli Hasan said he had tightened the issuance of licenses for conducting tree felling for industry, mining or plantation development.