Palm Plantations Consuming Tropical Forests
A drop in world palm oil prices is not expected to slow deforestation in Indonesia’s rainforests as companies continue to expand plantations, according to a new report.
Between 1990 and 2010, Indonesia’s palm oil plantations grew more than seven-fold to 7.8 million hectares, the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) said in the report released on Tuesday. About half of the new plantations used land once occupied by natural forests, making the palm oil industry the leading driver of deforestation in recent years. Much of the land is cleared without permits, and local authorities are not protecting forests from clear-cutting for plantations, the report said.
“The most depressing thing is the degree to which the government allows these crimes to go unpunished,” Jago Wadley, the EIA’s senior forest campaigner, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Indonesia already is the world’s largest palm oil producer. Its government plans to expand palm oil production to cover 20 million hectares, so the problem of deforestation to clear land could intensify. The government acknowledges the problem of widespread illegal logging. Many of the nation’s plantations are evading the country’s Timber Legality Verification System, legislation enacted in 2010 to stop the flow of illegal timber, the report said.
“Illegal logging must be stopped,”President Joko Widodo said. “We must not allow our tropical rainforest to disappear because of monoculture plantations like oil palm.”
Corruption among local police helps drive environmental impunity, according to the report. More than 1,000 land-related conflicts are under way across Indonesia, Wadley said, with rainforest residents often squaring off against palm oil plantation operators or illegal loggers.
In addition to the loss of forest acreage, Indonesia is losing endangered species with its forests. Sumatra, for example, is the only place in the world where tigers, orangutans, elephants and rhinos are found. Each of these species faces extinction within a decade. Indonesia has already lost two sub-species of tigers on Bali and Java.
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