Indonesian forest destruction dammed

Feature story - October 30, 2007
Our volunteers and local forest communities have halted swamp forest destruction in Sumatra, Indonesia, by damming five canals. The damming stops the peatland from drying out and releasing huge amounts of carbon dioxide.

More than 30 Greenpeace volunteers work with local people constructing dams in peatland canals in recently cleared forest.

The volunteers and local communities are building five dams across three-metre deep canals. The canals are used for draining peatland to convert into a commercial palm oil plantations.

Destroying the forest here would breach Indonesian regulations for forest protection and an Indonesia's Presidential decree. It would also lead to the release of large quantities of greenhouse gases.

Exposing the destruction:

About the peatland

Thick layers of peat underlay most of Indonesia's swamp forests. Over time, the peat layer locks up millions of tonnes of carbon. When forests are cleared, peat swamps are drained and decompose to release the stored carbon as carbon dioxide. Forests are often burned before planting palm oil saplings, adding to the climate problem.

Forest destruction, with its huge amounts of greenhouse gases emissions, makes Indonesia the world's third largest climate polluter, behind the US and China.

Damming the canals

More than 30 volunteers will work for a week with people from the nearby village to construct the dams. The dams will prevent the peatland from drying out and releasing carbon dioxide. The dams will also prevent the palm oil company from illegally burning the peatland, which is currently waterlogged.

"Palm oil companies are breaking the law and draining the very life out of Indonesia's remaining peatland forests," says Greenpeace South East Asia forest campaigner, Hapsoro. "And they are adding substantially to the problem of global warming."

We are damming on a plantation held by the PT Duta Palma company. Our peatland surveys, onducted with experts, show that the peat in PT Duta Palma's palm oil concession is up to eight metres deep. Our investigations from the Forest Defenders Camp in Riau have also uncovered flagrant violations of regulations intended to protect these areas.

This urgent problem needs a global solution. We have set up the Forest Defenders Camp on the boundary of forest clearing in a region of Sumatra.

Check out video and info about the Forest Defenders Camp

Read the Forest Defenders Camp weblog

Long-term solutions

Indonesia hosts the next round of international climate talks in December. World governments will gather in Bali to negotiate extending the Kyoto Protocol, the only binding international agreement on greenhouse gas emissions.

We aim to ensure that deforestation is included in the next phase of the Kyoto agreement, extending beyond 2012. The decisions of governments in the near future are critical for securing the financing and capacity countries need to safeguard their tropical forests and make a serious contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Reducing the worst impacts of climate change will take a revolution in the way we use and produce energy, and a strong commitment to halt deforestation worldwide. More governments need to commit to tougher emissions reduction targets in the second phase of the Kyoto Protocol.