Greenpeace hands over Forest Defenders Camp in Riau to community, allies

Forest Defenders taking peatland destruction issue to Bali

Press release - December 3, 2007
Greenpeace handed over the Forest Defenders Camp (FDC) in Riau to the Kuala Cenaku community and partner NGO network, Jikalahari in a formal adat ceremony at the camp yesterday, and vowed at the same time to take its demands for a moratorium on peatland conversion to Bali where governments will start converging on December 3 to hammer out a solution to the threat of climate change.

The FDC, a collaborative project between Greenpeace, the Kuala Cenaku community, the Manggala Agni fire fighting units in Riau Province, and local group Jikalahari, was established to bring national and international attention to the mindless destruction of Indonesia's forests and peatlands, especially for palm oil plantation development.

"The destruction of these peatlands in Kuala Cenaku and in other places of Indonesia is an unfolding environmental disaster. Not only is it driving the destruction of unique peat-swamp forest ecosystems and associated biodiversity, but it is also contributing significantly to climate change", said Hapsoro, Greenpeace Southeast Asia forests campaigner.(1)  "Since the establishment of the camp, we have been working with the community and partner groups like Jikalahari to stop the drainage, logging and burning of these precious peatland forests."

Over the past two months and on the lead up to the Bali meeting on climate change, Greenpeace and its local allies have been using the FDC as a base for damming peatland drainage canals from Duta Palma's concessions, and for carrying out forest fire fighting training with local volunteers as well as paramotor flights to help spot fires in the forests. In addition, Greenpeace activists at the camp and some local scientists have been conducting biodiversity, peatland and water table surveys in the area.

At the height of the camp activities, Greenpeace also released an international report detailing how the current operations and ongoing expansion of the palm oil industry is contributing to deforestation and the destruction of the climate. (2)

The report entitled "Cooking the Climate" reveals that the tiny Indonesian province of Riau in Sumatra, is home to 25 per cent of the country's palm oil plantations. Current expansion plans are set to cover half of the province with palm oil plantations, representing an increase of 300 per cent. This would have devastating consequences for Riau's peatlands which store a massive 14.6 billion tonnes of carbon (3) - equivalent to one year's global greenhouse gas emissions

"Greenpeace is handing over custody of this camp to the community and our NGO partners, as we take our demands forward to  decision makers in Jakarta and Bali," said Emmy Hafild, Executive Director of Greenpeace Southeast Asia. "Forest and peatland destruction must come high in the agenda of the Bali meeting, and we are calling on governments to agree to negotiate a new funding mechanism to protect the world's remaining tropical forests as a critical component of the next phase of the Kyoto Protocol. Towards this end, we call on the Indonesian government to exercise leadership and set a strong positive example by immediately declaring a moratorium on the conversion of peatland forests in the country," she added.

Greenpeace is calling on the Indonesian government to declare a ten-year moratorium on the conversion of peatland forests as part of  a national action plan for the conservation, rehabilitation and sustainable use of peatland ecosystems in the country.  Such an action plan could include the identification and delineation of peat forests, research and development on alternative and sustainable uses of peat swamps, and working with existing plantations on peat soils to prevent forest fires and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  

"Through this camp, our people will continue to defend our precious forestlands that are being grabbed and destroyed by greedy companies", said Burhanuddin, Kuala Cenaku's adat leader.

Greenpeace committed to continue supporting the community and its local allies in their ongoing campaign against forest destruction, stressing that the project would not have been possible without the support of the community and local partners. Greenpeace is also leaving behind forest fire fighting equipment with trained local fire fighters, as well as the camp structure which the community and partner groups can use as base for their campaign operations in the area.  

 Taking action to reduce deforestation must be part of the 'Bali Mandate'  which would establish the ambition, content, process and time table for negotiating the next phase of  international action against climate change due to be concluded by 2009. Stabilizing the world's climate depends on countries making deep cuts in their energy related emissions and completely halting deforestation.

Notes: (1) Emissions from the destruction of Indonesia’s peatlands represent 4 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions – 1.3 billion tonnes (Gt) from burning, 0.5Gt from ongoing degradation. Source: Hooijer et al (2006): 29. Global emissions of greenhouse gases in 2004 were 49Gt. Source: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Working Group III (2007):32) (2)The Greenpeace report, “Cooking the Climate”, is available online at www.greenpeace.org/cookingtheclimate and the Executive Summary at www.greenpeace.org/cookingtheclimate/summary 3) Riau’s peatlands store 14.6Gt of carbon. Source: Wahyunto et al (2003):34

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