Sumatra Rainforest – a devastating story

In yesterday’s Observer, the destruction of Indonesia’s rainforest was the focus of special report – the devastating land conflicts and illegal deforestation in Sumatra and Borneo is not a new story but last week the government renewed its decision to slow down the deforestation. Good news perhaps?

Unfortunately environmental experts say it could be too little too late as more than half of Indonesia’s rainforest (the third largest in the world) has already been felled to supply the world with toilet paper, paper, bio-fuels, palm oil and vegetable oil to make some of our everyday convenience items and food. Here I’ve highlighted some of the best points from this sad but essential-reading report…

‘The Sumatran rainforest will mostly disappear in 20 years’, Special Report by John Vidal, Observer Sunday 26 May 2013:

Burnt trees in Sumatran forest.Photograph: Kemal Jufri / Greenpeace
Photograph: Kemal Jufri / Greenpeace
  • Nearly a million hectares of rainforest are cut down each year and the last few places untouched (in Ache and Papua) are now prime targets for logging, palm oil and mining companies.
  • The deforestation means communities lose their indigenous land, which they rely on for food, building houses, and livelihood, to multinational corporations. ‘The legacy of deforestation has been conflict, increased poverty, migration to the cities and the erosion of habitat for animals. As forests come down, social conflicts are exploding everywhere,’ said Abetnego Tarigan, director of Walhi, Indonesia’s largest environment group.
  • A Canadian mining company is seeking to exploit 1.77m hectares for mining, logging and palm providing huge financial benefit for international investors at the expense of people and forests.
  • ‘Despite a commitment from the government to extend a moratorium on deforestation for two years Indonesia is still cutting down its forests faster than any other country.’ This is down to loopholes in the law and companies being granted ‘dubious logging or plantation permissions’.
  • It gets worse when you start hearing the stories from the ground.. ‘The permits were handed out illegally but now we have to work for the companies or hire ourselves out for pitiful wages…’ says one village leader.
  • ‘We used to get resin, wood, timber, fuel from the forest. Now we have no option but to work for the palm oil company.. and put plastic on our roofs…’
  •  In another village where they’ve been fighting oil plantation companies for ten years a villager says ‘Everything that we depended on went. Deforestation has led to pollution and health problems. We are all poorer now. I blame the companies and the government but most of all the government.’
  • In response, companies say the ecological devastation and illegal logging would be worse without them.
  • There seems to be some hope as pressure from international firms has forced some palm oil and paper companies to reassess their rainforest deforestation plans – Adidas, Kraft, Mattel, Hasbro, Nestle, Carrefour, Staples and Unilever have all dropped products made by rainforest timber from APP, one of the world’s largest pulp and paper companies.

Read the full report here; read more about the land conflicts and human rights fight and read more about the impact on animals and wildlife here.

This is a new blog spot bringing you the best in environment, green living, ecological or ethical news from around the world each week.

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