Indonesian people take action to stop forest and climate crime because Yudhoyono won’t

Feature story - August 6, 2009
Greenpeace, the West Kalimantan offices of Walhi and AMAN took action to protect Indonesian rainforests and peatlands from being destroyed by Indonesia’s largest forest criminal Sinar Mas in the heart of Borneo today. The non-violent direct action took place in palm oil concessions surrounding the Danau Sentarum National park, one of the largest wetlands in the world, source of Indonesia’s largest and longest river Kapuas Hulu, and the main source of protein for West Kalimantan’s 4.5 million people.

Greenpeace, the West Kalimantan offices of Walhi and AMAN took action to protect Indonesian rainforests and peatlands from being destroyed by Indonesia’s largest forest criminal Sinar Mas in the heart of Borneo .The non-violent direct action took place in palm oil concessions surrounding the Danau Sentarum National park, one of the largest wetlands in the world, source of Indonesia’s largest and longest river Kapuas Hulu,and the main source of protein for West Kalimantan’s 4.5 million people.

Ten Greenpeace and Walhi activists spread a giant 30x6 metre banner at the remaining forest wall in the Sinar Mas concession. The banner read "Sinar Mas forest - Climate Criminal". The activists then chained themselves to excavators to prevent them from destroying the forest.

"We took action today because the government is failing to do so," said Bustar Maitar, Greenpeace South East Asia Forest Campaigner.  "Every day more precious forest and peatland is being destroyed, burnt and cleared by climate and forest criminals such as Sinar Mas, leading to an exponential increase in greenhouse gas emissions that is causing climate change.  South East Asian people are the least prepared and most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.  Without immediate and dramatic action, we are facing an uncertain future where extreme weather events, drought and flooding will become commonplace."

Last week Greenpeace activists joined community members to extinguish forest fires raging out of control in the Riau province of Sumatra. Riau Province alone recorded 2,800 fire hotspots in July and the province is bracing for more as the dry season begins. Most fires are lit deliberately to clear land for palm oil and paper plantations. Indonesia destroys its forests faster than any other country, making it the world's third highest climate polluter. Fire hotspots are now being recorded all over Sumatra and Kalimantan.

"During his second term, President Yudhoyono has the historic opportunity to lead the concerted global efforts to reverse the worst impacts of climate change at the UN climate negotiations in Copenhagen in December. That means he should declare an immediate moratorium on peatland and forest destruction, Only then forest protection funds can start to flow from developed countries to provide sustainable solutions to forests, the people and biodiversity that depend on them and help win the global battle against climate change." said Maitar.

"We are facing a climate, forest and water crisis.  If President Yudhoyono allows this area to be surrendered to the palm oil industry then thousands of people along the river catchment areas and around Sentarum Lake will lose their fish stock, clean water and other livelihood sources," said Shaban Stiawan, Executive Director of the West Kalimantan office of Walhi.  "Sumatra and Kalimantan are blanketed in haze from forest fires, our national parks are ringed by deforestation and forest dependent peoples and communities are losing their traditional livelihoods.  Here in West Kalimantan, Sinar Mas is the main culprit." 

Sinar Mas is Indonesia's largest palm oil company, and the owner of pulp giant APP. They have aggressive expansion plans in Kalimantan and Papua for palm oil and in Sumatra for pulp and paper.   Although announcing some conservation efforts over the last months, they continue to expand their operations into forests unabated.

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