Friday, April 28, 2006

Farewell, dear Borneo

In the name of economy, we salute you!
The Indonesian government recently signed a deal with China that would rip into some of the last untouched tropical forests here on Borneo, where dozens of new species have been found in recent years in an area so vital it is sometimes called the lungs of Southeast Asia...

Overall, Indonesia says it expects China to invest $30 billion in the next decade, a big infusion of capital that contrasts with the declining investment here and in the region by American companies.

Much of that Chinese investment is aimed at the extractive industries, along with infrastructure like refineries, railroads and toll roads to help speed the flow of Indonesia's plentiful coal, oil, gas, timber, and palm oil to China's ports.

On April 19, Indonesia announced that China had placed a $1 billion rush order for 800,000 cubic meters, or 28.2 million cubic feet, of an expensive red- brown hardwood, called merbau, to be used in construction of its sports facilities for the 2008 Olympic Games.


Films4Conservation said...

The megaplantation that is currently being proposed, funded by Chinese investors, has now doubled in size to roughly 3,300,000 hectares...

Meanwhile the Indonesian government recognises that it needs to rehabilitate 56,000,000 ha of degraded forest. Around 25,000,000 ha of land is totally destroyed and palm oil cultivation here would actually help restore hydrology, bring work to destitute local people who lost all forms of income when their forests were cleared. It would also interupt the new annual burn cycle that puts the alang alang grass fields up in smoke, and poses risks to surrounding forests...

Its all a bit crazy. Meanwhile good forest is being cut down for conversion to plantation - providing an innitial 40% windfall in timber revenues, and much valued up fornt cash, since the plantations will take about 4 years to turn a profit.

6,000 orangutans a year are being lost out of a combined total of about 60,000 (including the Bornean and Sumatran species).

Money, money, money... and it is crazy because it would not cost us, the end consumer, that much more if we pushed for sustainable palm oil, a product found in 1 in 10 supermarket products in the UK now.

So... what is to be done? Well everyone needs to be asking their supermarkets to take responsible action. We also need to ask our governments to provide some help to companies who are going to be responsible, because this damn free market is obviously going to favour those who have these early profits...

Come and find out more, and see some of the work we're doing on palm oil and orangutans:

We're looking for keen campaigners, people who will spread the word, write articles, blogs, letters. It really is a critical time for the orangutan, and the millions of people who's livlihood is threatened by the total land clearance brought about by plantation development, have a look at our photo albums to see some of the extent of the damage.

Please drop us a line if you can help,

Nick Lyon,
Director, Orangutan Film Protection Project

bulegirl said...

I am finally glad that the atrocity, no audacity of this alleged sale of Kalimantan forest by the Indonesian government to the Chinese is finally getting a semblance of international attention. I would like to ask a few questions (to which I know the majority of the answers but would prefer to provoke the curious minds of others):
- has anyone really checked the altitude that generally suits the propogation of palm oil trees? If one where to look further, one would find out that the altitude of this particular and substantial forest is way too high for any well intended palm tree to prosper. The alleged 'palm oil' plantation is nothing more than a public relations spin to accomodate any of the international public who may or may not question the veracity of this sale.
- Given that almost one half of Indonesia is made over to government Palm Oil Plantations (commonly known as PTPNs) why, other than the rise in the commercial value of palm oil, does anyone need to log timber the size of this tract, at an altitude that will not grow palm oil trees and create yet another palm oil plantation?
- has anyone asked how much of the millions of dollars the Chinese paid for the forest will actually go to the people who own it? Like the Dayaks or any of the indigenous people populating the area? I beg you to ponder a guess as to how much the goverment members of the Kalimantan Regency will skim off the top of this sale? Ponder again a guess as to how much was actually paid under the table to ensure that the sale would win the approval of the multitude of government officials, parliamentary members, military officers, police officials, ministers,oops, I mean ministry officials and the local gangsters and preman and therefore actually see the contract on the table and the ink that sealed this shocking transaction?
- Ponder again the name and affiliation of the companies (or Special Purpose Vehicles as they are commonly known by in Indonesia) as well as the shareholders named therein to facilitate this deal? And I don't mean the nominee shareholders I mean the real shareholders? Perhaps they may not all be Chinese passport holders? Any Dayak names on those contracts? Malaysian names? Yes, Malaysian.... I know, it is Indonesia but the lines get a bit fuzzy every now and then.
- I ask how many plant species, animals, aquatic life and human beings will be decimated in the name of supplying timber to the Chinese allegedly to build the 2008 Olympic Village but which, no doubt, will be majority onsold to the likes of the local Chinese furniture and wood product manufacturers as well as the Australian, American and European builders, furniture manufacturers, etc.?
- I wonder if the neighbors on the Sarawak side of the border had any influence or interest in this particular transaction? After all, it is common knowledge that the majority of the illegally logged timber journeys out of Borneo/Kalimantan proper through the Malaysian Sarawak borders.
- I would like to know what will happen to the slash and burn of the hillside in terms of air pollution, residual silt and runoff clogging the rivers, massive erosion, logging waste, etc., etc.? Especially since the, ah, palm oil trees may be a little thin post logging.....