October 10, 2008

Indonesian Authorities Create Deal To Save Sumatra

During the World Conservation Congress, Indonesian authorities and the conservation group WWF agreed to a deal that aims to end the loss of forests and species in Sumatra.

Sumatra is home to many iconic species such as tigers, orangutans, rhinoceros and elephants. Over the last 20 years, the region has lost about half of its forest cover due to illegal forest clearance caused by floods and forest fires.

The need to deal with these issues appears to have played a big part in persuading the authorities to act.

"In the rainy months, we are seeing landslides and flooding more often, and it is time to make a real change," said Indonesia's deputy environment minister Hermien Roosita at a news briefing here.

"Every governor from the 10 provinces and four (national) ministries have signed this monumental commitment to ecosystem restoration of the island and protecting the remaining natural forest."

More than 13% of the island's forests lie on peat, which contain vast amounts of carbon that would be lost to the atmosphere if the trees were removed, accelerating climate change.

"When you look at the flora and fauna in this area and the rate of loss that's going on, this is a substantial commitment to protect and restore forests," said Gordon Shepherd, WWF's director of global policy.

Additionally, authorities have pledged to make development on Sumatra obey principles of "ecosystem-based planning," where any projects detrimental to the island's ecological health would be banned.

"We are calling on the international community to support us in implementing this commitment on the ground and help us to find extra livelihoods by protecting our forests," said Marlis Rahman, vice-governor of the province of West Sumatra.

Mr Rahman did not put a figure on how much money might be needed, although he said say technical help was also part of the equation.

Measures such as those outlined at the World Conservation Congress are expected to become a formal part of any future international agreement on climate.


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