Indonesia: Environmental NGOs write to UNESCO highlighting threat to Leuser Ecosystem from geothermal project

Antara 27 Mar 17;

Banda Aceh (ANTARA News) - An environmental NGO consortium has sent a letter to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage over a plan to build a geothermal power plant that could threaten the Leuser Ecosystem.

The Leuser Ecosystem would suffer serious damage if a geothermal power plant were to be built inside the ecosystem area, Panut Hadisiswoyo, director of the Orangutan Information Center (OIC), stated here, Monday.

Apart from the OIC, other NGOs joining the consortium include the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme and the Aceh Natural Forest and Environment (HAKA) Foundation.

The Leuser Ecosystem, located in Aceh and part of North Sumatra, covers over six million acres, including lowland and mountainous rainforests and over 460 thousand acres of carbon-rich peatlands.

The Leuser Ecosystem is the last place on earth where Sumatran orangutans, tigers, elephants, rhinos, and sun bears co-exist in the wild. Countless other biological treasures, including clouded leopards, hornbills, and the biggest flowers in the world can be found in the teeming forests of the Leuser Ecosystem.

Several mega projects planned to be built inside the ecosystem would threaten the existence of the forests in the area, Hadisiswoyo noted.

The UNESCO World Heritage should intervene in the matter to prevent the extinction of the Sumatran tropical forests in Leuser, he remarked.

"We urge the World Heritage to take strategic measures to prevent the implementation of those projects inside the Leuser Ecosystem area, the last existing habitat of orangutans, rhinos, and tigers that coexist there. This area must be protected," he stated.

The planned geothermal power plant will be built inside the core zone of the Leuser Ecosystem.

The Indonesian government has been lobbied by a company that will build the power plant to change the core zone.

Farwiza, chairman of the HAKA Foundation, has expressed concerns, as representatives of the company had held frequent closed-door meetings with the related ministry officials to push the construction of the power plant.

"This mega project will destroy the habitats of several protected and endangered animals. The mega project also holds no relevance to the needs and interests of the Aceh people," he explained.

Ian Singleton, program director of the Sumatra Orangutan Conservation, said the Leuser Ecosystem has the largest tropical rainforest in Southeast Aceh, which is home to orangutans, elephants, rhinos, Sumatran tigers, and other rare species.

"It will be very ironic if a priceless and highly valuable ecosystem, such as Leuser, is lost due to the construction of a power plant," he added.

(Reported by M Haris SA/Uu.F001/INE/KR-BSR)

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