Jakarta halts deforestation in Sumatra's Kampar Peninsula

AFP – Nov 19, 2009

JAKARTA — Environmentalists claimed a small victory on Thursday after Indonesia ordered one of the country's biggest pulp and paper companies to halt forest clearing in the Kampar Peninsula.

Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan told reporters he had ordered Asia Pacific Resources International Holding Limited (APRIL) to suspend clearing in the area of Sumatra island pending a review of all its permits.

The peninsula's 400,000 hectares (988,420 acres) of peatland forest is home to rare species including Sumatran tigers and forms part of one of the largest natural carbon "sinks" in the world.

The clearing and burning of Indonesia's peatlands account for four percent of total global greenhouse gas emissions, according to Greenpeace, which established a "defenders' camp" in the forest more than three weeks ago.

"Greenpeace expects the forest minister to do a comprehensive review of all the existing permits and concessions for pulp and paper companies in the Kampar Peninsula," Greenpeace Southeast Asia Forest campaigner Bustar Maitar said.

"The main players in the destruction of these precious peatlands are the pulp and paper giants -- Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) and its main rival APRIL."

Greenpeace's camp has been visited by "Inglourious Basterds" star Melanie Laurent and US Ambassador Cameron R. Hume.

But a "non-violent direct action" which drew international media attention on November 12 resulted in the deportation of 13 international Greenpeace activists and two foreign journalists, Greenpeace said.

Greenpeace Southeast Asia campaign director Shailendra Yashwant called on Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to issue a moratorium on deforestation ahead of global climate talks in Copenhagen next month.

"He must stop Indonesia's rampant deforestation that makes the country the third largest emitter of greenhouse gas emissions," he said in a statement.

The Reporters Without Borders media rights watchdog said Tuesday it "deplores" the arrests of the Italian and Indian journalists who were covering the Greenpeace protest.

"These arbitrary arrests of accredited journalists are unacceptable. Do we have to point out that the police are not supposed to take their orders from industrial conglomerates?" it said in a statement.