[Press Release] Aceh Forests facing numerous threats

21/05/2013 -Press Release For Immediate distribution

Aceh Forests facing numerous threats
“the threats to Aceh forest are not as black and white as one plan”

[BANDA ACEH] “The threats to Aceh forest are not as ‘black and white’ as just one plan.” Explained Rudi Putra, Avaaz petition starter, “Acehs forests are facing numerous threats; illegal permits to open forests are being issued before the spatial plan is even agreed, land status is being downgraded, illegal logging continues, roads are being pushed through protected areas and poaching of protected wildlife continues in the field. The Government continues to push its agenda without transparency or opportunities to discuss the combined impacts of all the threats. Instead it seems to be responding to criticisms one by one, as only minor issues, in an attempt to mask the combined large scale and long term impacts that will result.” He continued.

In this last week over 1.2 million signatures have been added to an international petition calling on Indonesian President SBY and Aceh Governor Zaini to “reject the plan to cut down protected rainforests in Aceh.” Indonesia’s majestic forests are a global treasure, and we encourage engagement with the local community to develop a plan that prioritises sustainable development, and protects this fragile ecosystem and the animals that live there.” (1)

The campaign to protect and restore Aceh’s threatened forests continues to gather international attention after Head of the President’s Delivery Unit for Development, Monitoring & Oversight (UKP-PPP), Kuntoro Mangkusubroto, issued a press release questioning the source for the figures used in the debate. (2)

Rudi Putra added, “Pak Kuntoro is right. I agree that the information of the scale of the threat is drawn from a comparison of the former spatial plan from 2010, that aimed to protect 68% of Aceh’s land cover as forest, and the new plan currently being pushed, that will reduce this area to just 45%. Chairman of the Aceh Parliament’s Spatial Planning Committee made this statement in the Sydney Morning Herald earlier this year (3), and since that time, many media, NGO reports and even company websites have used the same figure.

“What we must focus on here though”, Putra continued, “is the problems already being caused by clearance of Aceh’s forests, and the threats posed by any further destruction and clearing of these forests, which will make things even worse. Even without cutting the forest, natural landslides and flash floods occur in Aceh on a regular basis, and when forests are cleared these disasters occur much more often and are much more severe. This is already impacting the community of Aceh, we should be working to reduce these threats, not to increase them.

“The Leuser Ecosystem is already protected by Law on Governing Aceh, law No 11/2006 and National Spatial Planning Law No 26/2007 and Government Regulation No 26/2008 as a ‘National Strategic Area for its Environmental Protection Function’, meaning that any development within the Leuser Ecosystem that damages its environmental protection function is illegal. Leuser acts as a life support for approximately four million people living around it by providing a steady supply of water, soil fertility, flood control, climate regulation and pest mitigation. The provincial spatial plan for Aceh must comply with existing National Laws protecting the Leuser Ecosystem, you can not simply ignore these laws to open up the forests for logging and mining. We are also extremely concerned about reports that roads are already being built, before any construction permits have even be granted”. Concluded Putra

Over the last few weeks major flooding has seriously impacted many districts of Aceh. Vice-Governor Muzakir Manaf, who visited the affected areas in Aceh Singkil on Thursday 16 May, told Aceh newspapers reporters that “the cause of the flooding is illegal logging and encroachment of forests” (4)

Graham Usher, a Landscape Protection Specialist who was involved in the environmental sensitivity analysis conducted in 2008 as part of the development of the previous Aceh Government’s forestry redesign process, welcomes Pak Kuntoro’s recommendation that a Strategic Environmental Assessment be carried out. “Both our environmental analysis, and a similar exercise carried out by the Asian Development Bank, estimated that between 63% and 68% of Aceh is very sensitive to disturbance, and that maintaining intact primary and restoring degraded forest cover was the best strategy for avoiding future environmental disasters. At the time, our recommendation was that the smart strategy was to expand forest cover, by restoring already degraded areas, ensuring both maintenance of environmental services and guaranteeing safe sources of timber for the future. But now, the key aspect of the new Aceh Government’s spatial plan is how much of these very sensitive areas are to be threatened with expansion of logging, road building, plantations and mining, even if they officially classified as forests. Aceh’s people know very well that any disturbance of forests in these areas results in devastating landslides, floods and complete changes to river systems. I think over 1 million people signed this petition because they share the concerns of Aceh’s people, and because they care about the fate of tigers, elephants, orangutans and rhinos, the incredible biodiversity of Aceh’s forests, and global climate change. If the current Aceh Government is, as it appears to be, determined on reactivating logging concessions in sensitive areas, pushing new roads through intact forests, and breaking up the Leuser Ecosystem, then people are quite right to express their concerns.”

The latest study from the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Indonesia found that the local administration in Aceh is the worst performer when it comes to protecting the country’s remaining forests. (5)
…ends

References:
(1) http://avaaz.org/en/the_plan_to_kill_orangutans_loc/?slideshow
(2) http://www.ukp.go.id/siaran-pers/120-tidak-ada-usulan-konversi-hutan-12-juta-hektar-di-provinsi-aceh
(3http://www.smh.com.au/environment/animals/extinction-risk-as-aceh-opens-forests-for-logging-20130114-2cpmr.html
(4) http://aceh.tribunnews.com/m/index.php/2013/05/16/wagub-illegal-logging-penyebab-banjir
(5) http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2013/04/30/aceh-performs-worst-forestry-protection-undp.html

For further media comment:

Rudi Putra
+62 813 6088 2455
lestenleuser@gmail.com
Avaaz Petition starter

Graham Usher
+62 877 6639 4260
kimabajo1@gmail.com
Landscape Protection Specialist

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About endoftheicons

The Leuser Ecosystem on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia is in grave danger. Local politicians want to allow logging, mining and palm oil plantations in this vulnerable area. Sumatran orangutans, rhinos, elephants and tigers are already hanging on by a thread. They will not survive the destruction of the Leuser Ecosystem.

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