Industry faces fresh calls to stop forest conversion
Astrid Wijaya, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
Palm oil companies are facing increasing pressure from green groups
who fear the conversion of forests into plantations could cost the
country its rich biodiversity.
The Center for Orangutan Protection (COP) said Monday that in
Kalimantan alone, at least 236 plant species and 51 animal species
were facing extinction due to the massive conversion of forests into
oil palm plantations.
These comments came just a day before the Roundtable on Sustainable
Palm Oil (RSPO) holds its sixth annual meeting in Bali. Oil palm
growers, processors, traders, consumer goods manufacturers,
retailers, investors and Environmental and developmental NGOs will
meet to discuss the various issues affecting the palm oil industry
during the Nov. 18-20 meeting.
Some issues include the role of small-scale palm oil growers, the
RSPO and the government, market standards and biofuels.
"The ignorance and questionable morality of the oil palm industry and
the government have put Kalimantan forests in danger. They already
know the impacts of forest conversion, but do not consider the long-
term effects they may have," COP executive director Hardi Baktiantoro
Indonesia allegedly has 1,170 native species facing extinction, the
highest number of any country in the world. Environmental damage in
Kalimantan largely stems from the activities of the palm oil
The land conversion, Hardi said, was worse than illegal logging,
because palm plantations destroy the original natural landscape.
One of a few remaining Dayak ethnobotanists -- people who benefit
from plants for food, medicine, dyes, raw materials and cultural
rituals -- in Central Kalimantan, Christopel Sahabu, joined the
He said land conversion in his village, Tumbang Koling, had reduced
the forest coverage from 10,000 hectares to 6,000 hectares.
"This massive destruction of our trees has extinguished many original
plants and herbs. Those herbs are important to support our lives," he
COP Habitat Program Manager Novi Hardianto said he signed an
agreement with local governments to curb forest exploitation, but the
outcomes were far from adequate.
Indonesian Palm Oil Producers Association (GAPKI) executive Derom
Bangun declined to comment on the COP allegations, saying he was busy
preparing for the roundtable meeting in Bali.
The palm oil industry has opposed any moratorium on forest and peat
land conversion, saying it would slow the country's economy, cause
further job losses and increase poverty.
GAPKI strongly rejects any forest conversion moratorium due to the
allegedly inevitable impacts on the country's economy.
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