ACTION ALERT - March 20, 2007
In Indonesia, vast expanses of tropical rainforest are being cleared due to illegal logging and the expansion of oil palm and timber plantations. This habitat destruction is having a devastating effect on the environment that is both global and local.
Not only does this deforestation contribute to an increase in greenhouse gas emissions, the underlying peat soils are also drained on a large-scale to enable land clearing and the transport of logs in drainage canals. Carbon dioxide has built up in these soils over thousands of years and when drained and in contact with the air, they start oxidising, decomposing, and emitting CO2. This is often accelerated by wildfires that are frequently purposefully lit as a means of land clearing for oil palm plantations. Recent estimates indicate that these peatland fires account for the equivalent of 15% of all global CO2 emissions from fossil fuels. In Indonesia alone, 2000 million tonnes of CO2 is emitted each year.
Peatland fires are also one of the greatest threats to orang-utans who survive only in the tropical rainforests of Borneo and Sumatra. They are dependent on the forest for food and nesting sites and their populations are now seriously at risk. As oil palm plantations expand, and the extent of peatland fires increases, hundreds of orang-utans are dying in the fires. Those that escape the flames commonly end up in cultivated areas where they are often killed for meat or to protect crops.
Hundreds of peat and forest fires are currently burning across Borneo, Sumatra and Java. Unless the international community acts quickly, the death toll on Indonesia's wildlife will continue to escalate, and the carbon and methane emissions from burning peatlands may lead to dangerous climate change
Write to the Prime Minister, The Hon John Howard and the Minister for Environment and Water Resources, The Hon Malcolm Turnbull, Parliament House, Canberra ACT 2600. Urge them to engage directly with the Indonesian State Minister for the Environment, Mr. Rachmat Witoelar, to stop the expansion of oil palm plantations, and peatland fires. Stress that immediate action is needed to halt the emission of massive amounts of greenhouse gases and remove the threat to orangutans and other wildlife.