Large blocks of Sumatra's endangered rainforest may be put up for mining, logging
Mongabay.com|Large blocks of Sumatra's endangered rainforest may be put up for mining, logging28/01/13
The Indonesian province of Aceh on the western tip of the island of Sumatra may be preparing to lift the protected status of key areas of lowland rainforest potentially ending its bid to earn carbon credits from forest conservation and putting several endangered species at increased risk, according to reports.
Under a draft plan developed by the Aceh parliament's spatial planning committee, some 71,857 hectares of protected areas will lose their protected status and be turned over for logging, mining, and conversion for plantations. While the area represents two percent of Aceh's forests, which presently cover 55 percent of the province's land mass, it includes some of Sumatra's increasingly rare lowland forests. Aceh has the most extensive forest cover left in Sumatra, where vast swathes of forest -- 40 percent of its primary forests and 36 percent of its total forest cover since 1990 -- have been cleared for pulp and paper plantations, oil palm estates, and agriculture.
The former governor's plan was driven by his interest in earning carbon credits under Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+), a opposed mechanism that aims to compensate tropical countries for protecting and restoring forests. But REDD+ has failed to develop as hoped, undercutting the market for, and value of, forest-conservation based credits. Now one of the first REDD+ projects in the world — located in Aceh's Ulu Masen — appears to be on the chopping block, according to a report in theSydney Morning Herald.
"Another wilderness area, Ulu Masen, which was slated to become a 735,000-hectare preservation area to prevent carbon emissions, is also not recognized under the spatial plan," wrote Michael Bachelard for the newspaper.
Part of the motivation for the change may be political, according to a local government source who spoke to Mongabay.com on the condition of anonymity.
"The 68 percent figure was in the draft spatial plan prepared by the Irwandi administration, however the government reform inside Aceh needed to achieve this goal never took place during his term," the official said. "Now what we are left with is a team that is 100% anti anything that slightly resembles Irwandi, and a team of bureaucrats who have no faith in REDD delivering any funding and are preparing to launch major deforestation and [road] projects in the name of 'community development' which in reality is simply driven by a small number of large businesses."