Communist Party of Australia  

Home


The Guardian

Current Issue

PDF Archive

Web Archive

Pete's Corner

Subscribe

Press Fund


CPA


About Us

Why you should ...

CPA introduction


Contact Us

facebook, twitter


Major Issues

Indigenous

Unions

Health

Housing

Climate Change

Peace

Solidarity/Other


State by State

NSW, Qld, SA, Vic, WA


What's On

Topical


Resources

AMR

Links


Shop@CPA

Books, T-shirts, CDs/DVDs, Badges, Misc


 

Issue #1657      September 24, 2014

Save the Leuser Rainforest ecosystem

“I grew up in a place teeming with wild Orangutans, Elephants, Tigers, Sunbears and Sumatran Rhinos. My family and I lived in balance with the mountains, forests and rivers surrounding us. From an early age, I knew I had to take care of the beauty that surrounded me. But as huge multi-national companies expand their reach and as palm plantations spread, I know that I can’t protect these pristine places alone,” says Rudi Putra, environmental activist.

The critically endangered Sumatran orangutan, a great ape endemic to Sumatra, Indonesia.

As recently as the 1960s, 82 percent of Indonesia was covered with tropical rainforests, but sadly the country now has one of the highest deforestation rates in the world, with just under half of the country’s original forests remaining. Between 1990 and 2005, Indonesia lost more than 28 million hectares of forest, including 21.7 million hectares of virgin forest. It is estimated that, from 2000 to 2010, about 1.125 million hectares have been lost. Conservative studies suggest more than 2.4 million hectares of Indonesian rainforest is cleared and lost each year.

Indonesia’s rainforests are one of earth’s most biologically and culturally rich landscapes. Incredibly, with just 1 percent of the Earth’s land area, Indonesia’s rainforests contain 10% of the world’s known plants, 12% of mammals and 17% of all known bird species.

Today in many parts of Indonesia though, where there was once rainforest, rows of palm trees now stretch to the horizon. The rainforest is gone – bulldozed, burned and replaced with palm oil plantations. Even supposedly protected areas of rainforest are being destroyed or coming under threat from mining, logging and palm oil companies. One such region is the Leuser Rainforest Ecosystem in Aceh province in north Sumatra, a vitally important protected tropical rainforest ecosystem of global significance.

“I have witnessed vast areas of forests destroyed to make way for palm oil plantations; forests I knew were the homes of endangered species. I’ve removed traps from the forest corridors used by the last Sumatran elephants and tigers. I have even found animals poisoned, speared and burned alive by poachers and plantation workers. I need your help to protect the last rhinos and rainforests of Indonesia’s Leuser Ecosystem from Conflict Palm Oil,” says Rudi Putra.

Recently, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) identified the Leuser Ecosystem as one of the world’s foremost “irreplaceable areas” that must be protected to preserve biodiversity.

The north Sumatra rainforests are home to 10,000 different plants and hundreds of birds and mammals. A rainforest that’s home to 10-15 percent of all species on earth. The rainforests of Sumatra are the last stand for one of humankind’s closest relatives, the Orangutan. Orangutans face an extreme risk of extinction within our lifetime. Between 2004-08, the Sumatran Orangutan population fell by 14 percent to 6,600, largely due to the massive loss of forest habitat for palm oil expansion.

The Leuser Rainforest Ecosystem and other protected areas are vital for the survival of some of the world’s most endangered species. Leuser is the last place on earth where endangered Sumatran Orangutans, Sumatran Tigers, Sumatran Rhinos, Elephants and Sun Bears are all found together.

“And still, the plantations keep growing across Aceh, always feeding the demand for conflict palm oil. It must stop. We must protect the world’s rainforests. We must stop powerful and wealthy international corporations from exploiting and destroying irreplaceable Indonesian ecosystems for profit. My community and I work tirelessly to shut down and destroy illegal palm oil plantations inside the federally protected Leuser Ecosystem, using chainsaws and uprooting illegal oil palms. We do this to protect our families from the floods that result from the destruction of the forests on the hillsides that surround our homes. But we cannot do this alone. We need your help,” says Rudi Putra.

Conservation groups are fighting a plan drawn up by the provincial Aceh government that is currently being evaluated by the central Indonesian government which would strip protection from a vast area of the prized Leuser Rainforest region.

The government of Aceh has approved a disastrous plan that would remove crucial protections from large areas of forest, opening them up to more palm oil and pulp plantations, logging, mining and all of the roads and other infrastructure that come with them.

The Acehnese government is pushing to finalise the proposed plan and an additional new draft governor’s regulation, which opens a door for new permits in large critical areas of the Leuser Ecosystem. If approved, this new plan and the new regulation will result in the rapid devastation of most of Aceh’s remaining lowland forests. This also totally undermines the protected status of the region. Environmentalists have stated that if the Indonesian central government approves Aceh’s spatial plan, the Sumatran Elephant, Tiger, Rhino and Orangutan will be pushed to extinction.

As well, Western Australia-based mining firm Prosperity Resources has already been granted a 41,000-hectare area to explore for gold and copper on the edge of the Leuser Ecosystem. And furthermore, an Aceh-based environmental campaigner said that Prosperity Resources and Canadian firm East Asia Minerals were actively lobbying the Aceh government to open up more protected areas.

“It gives me hope that by people across the world calling on the governor, he will listen to the people instead of the companies that want to destroy our forests, and work to find a balance that will protect the forests and the livelihoods of Aceh’s people,” says Rudi Putra.

Nearly four million people depend on the rainforests of the Leuser Ecosystem to provide them with clean water for drinking, irrigation and food production. Also many thousands of Indigenous people rely on the rainforest for their lives and livelihoods. Opening up huge areas of some of the world’s most biologically diverse forests to major industrial development will have devastating consequences for both wildlife and people.

Of course, it’s not just local communities and wildlife that need to be protected from bulldozers and forest fires. Indonesia’s rainforests are a valuable carbon sink – destroying them would make our climate problem that much worse, imperilling the future of everyone on this planet just to enrich a few well-connected businessmen.

The President of Indonesia has committed to reducing Indonesia’s greenhouse gas emissions and implementing a moratorium on new permits in primary forests and peatlands. But if this plan is approved and if the current moratorium on the logging and clearing of forests in Indonesia are lifted it will be a disaster for the climate, Indonesia’s endangered species and local communities.

We must ensure that the Leuser Protected Ecosystem remains protected from logging, the expansion of palm oil and pulp plantations, mining and new major roads that would impact the integrity of the area. Keeping the forested slopes of the Leuser Protected Area intact will help Indonesia meet its commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prevent dangerous landslides and flooding that can wash away entire villages. This will also ensure that the livelihoods of local communities are respected and work to support new economies for communities in Aceh.

“Further opening up of the protected area totally undermines the legal status of the world renowned Leuser Ecosystem. It will not only seriously impact biodiversity and regional carbon emissions, but also seriously jeopardise the lives and livelihoods of many thousands of Aceh’s four million people. We are requesting your urgent assistance. Visit Wildlife Asia Operation Aceh Fund to save this last piece of truly critical forest. We have a different vision for Aceh. We must protect the Leuser Ecosystem and the people who rely on it. The Aceh people have long fought to protect these forests because they provide us with clean water, food and are important for the next generation,” says Tezar Pahlevie, winner of the 2013 GRASP Conservation award for his team’s work restoring rainforests damaged by illegal palm oil plantations.

In Indonesia’s rainforests the Orangutans are making their last stand for survival. Scientists warn that these gentle and intelligent animals, among humankind’s closest kin, could become extinct within our lifetime if their rainforest homes continue to be destroyed for palm oil plantations. It’s now estimated that only 6,600 Sumatran Orangutans are surviving in their shrinking rainforest habitat. The number one threat to the Sumatran Orangutan is illegal deforestation driven by the palm oil expansion. Without urgent action this species could be the first great ape to become extinct in the wild.

Palm oil production is a leading cause of deforestation in Indonesia. And thus is the primary threat pushing these endangered animals toward extinction. This product lies very close to home: you’ll find it hidden in the snack food aisle of your local supermarket or store and most likely end up sitting in your own shopping cart.

A global ongoing campaign to make people aware of palm oil and demand that big name brands cut their links to dirty palm oil production is ongoing. And the pressure is working, with new companies announcing No Deforestation policies almost weekly.

Thanks to hard work Rainforest Action Network, Greenpeace and consumer pressure, the palm oil industry is moving on this issue. Several of the Snack Food 20 companies have already committed to eliminate Conflict Palm Oil from their supply chain, or are in the process of doing so. But five of the biggest players are still dragging their feet. Pepsi, Kraft, Campbell’s, Heinz and ConAgra are feeling the heat. But so far, they have all refused to act. Now is the time to increase the pressure and push these companies to take a stand for Orangutans, the other wildlife, the rainforest and the families who live and work there.

Changing corporation’s palm oil policies won’t just help protect Leuser and other Indonesian rainforest. When major brands start demanding no deforestation palm oil, suppliers around the world will have to stop cutting down forests to keep their customers. This single campaign could protect forests across the globe from destruction for palm oil plantations.

We need to make sure that what’s left of the world’s rainforests, like Leuser are protected, not opened up to palm oil and other companies seeking to profit from rainforest destruction. Environmentalists say this will almost certainly drive the endangered animals in the area to extinction. We can’t let that happen. More long-term economic benefits would be found through sustainable industries such as tourism and education.

Please publicise this situation, write letters and petition the government of Indonesia to protect the Leuser Ecosystem. And support the campaign against Conflict Palm Oil. This is an urgent situation that requires action, as the people and wildlife of Leuser need support from people around the world to save them. Please act to help the preserve the Leuser Rainforest and the orangutans, tigers, rhinos and other wild animals that inhabit these precious rainforests.

To read more information about Leuser and the campaign against Palm Oil contact: Palm Oil / Rainforest Action Network www.ran.org/palm_oil

Visit Wildlife Asia Operation Aceh Fund to save this last piece of truly critical forest habitat. www.wildlifeasia.org.au

Conflict Palm Oil Campaign.

Sources: Rainforest Action Network and Greenpeace.

Next article – US created Al-Qaeda and ISIS

Back to index page

Go to What's On Go to Shop at CPA Go to Australian Marxist Review Go to Join the CPA Go to Subscribe to the Guardian Go to the CPA Maritime Branch website Go to the Resources section of our web site Go to the PDF of the Hot Earth booklet go to the World Federation of Trade Unions web site go to the Solidnet  web site Go to Find out more about the CPA