Indonesia: Call to stop Aceh city plan amid fear of environmental damage

Amie Fenia Arimbi Antara 13 Mar 13;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Coalition of NGOs in Aceh province here on Wednesday launched a petition at www.change.org urging the local government to revoke its plan to implement forest clearing for development arguing that it harms the environment.

Spokesman to the coalition Effendi said here on Wednesday, according to the draft of plan, which has been sent to the central government for approval, about 1.2 million hectares of the total of 3.7 million hectares of protected forest area will be made into public housings, plantations and road.

"This is dangerous for the continuation of biodiversity in the forest. Protected forest in Aceh is home to rare habitats such as Sumatran elephant, Sumatran Tiger and Orang Utan. Deforestation will harm their population. Not to mention the possibility of natural disasters such as flood and landlside to occur if there`s not enough forest area that can contain water," he said.

Effendi who spoke on behalf of Aceh-based NGOs such as Transparency International Indonesia-Aceh, JKMA Aceh, Orang Utan Forum, and WWF Aceh expressed concern that deforestation planned by the local government may be implemented only to accommodate many entrepreneurs who want to develop palm oil plantation and other forest-related business in Aceh.

Meanwhile another environmental activist Farwiza said of the total of proposed protected forest area to be explored by the government, only 14,000 hectares or less than 10 percent of it being built for public places such as housings and roads.

"The rest is for mining and plantation," she said.

Another activist Rudi Putra expressed concern that deforestation in Aceh may lead to the presence of natural disasters such as flood and landslide. The native of Tamiang district, eastern Aceh, took example of flash flood that hit his hometown in 2006. The flood which took 67 casualties and destroyed hundreds of houses was said to be the result of deforestation in the area.

"The government must stop deforestation immediately or else it will harm the local people and biodiversity that lives in the forest," he added.

Up till now 3,097 people have signed the petition online.
(Uu.A051/B003)

Editor: Priyambodo RH

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