Sunday, 20 June 2010

Letter: Money does grow on trees

Letter: Money does grow on trees

Sat, 06/12/2010 10:13 AM The Jakarta Post

Much has recently been written about the US$4 billion pledged to Indonesia by Norway, in return for no further deforestation. A deal sealed by Indonesia’s President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono: On the face of it, a good deal for all concerned. Timely, then, perhaps to look at recent history and another deal signed up to by the President which promised to save rainforests and its inhabitants.

Back in 2005 his government gave a solemn pledge to something called the Kinshasa Declaration on Great Apes. Admittedly, there was no money on the table on that occasion, but then again no one held a gun to the head of the government forcing them to sign this document. But, in signing the Declaration, the government of Indonesia agreed, amongst other things, to:

Resolve to set ourselves and all concerned the target, by the year 2010, of securing a constant and significant reduction in the current rate of loss of great ape populations and their habitats; and, by 2015, securing the future of all species and subspecies of great apes in the wild, by:

Ensuring the integrity of those sites supporting the key wild populations that would conserve the genetic, ecological and cultural diversity of all great apes for all time; Protecting those sites from further degradation and loss of habitat and working with local and indigenous communities to ensure that any human use of habitats is ecologically sustainable and consistent with maintaining healthy, viable great ape populations.

One only has to read the pages of this newspaper on a daily basis to know, Indonesia has totally reneged on its commitment to the Kinshasa Declaration on Great Apes. The decimation of both orangutans and rainforests, has actually gone from bad to disastrous in the last five years.

So, whilst any new initiative to protect Indonesia’s rainforest must be welcomed, I urge a note of caution. When someone is waving $4 billion in front of you, chances are most people would promise to save the world, much less Indonesia.

What’s important is to judge President Yudhoyono what he does and not by what he promises to do.

Since he promised further protection for orangutans back in 2005, another 15,000 of this legally protected species have been killed.

Sean Whyte