AUSTRALIAN COMPANIES THREATEN SUMATRAN WILDLIFE

PRESS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE DISTRIBUTION

Conservation groups are calling on Australian company Prosperity Resources to explain any involvement in a local government plan to strip protection from a vast area of the 2.6 million hectare Leuser Ecosystem in Aceh Province, Sumatra. The Leuser Ecosystem is an area of forest located in the provinces of Aceh and North Sumatra on the island of Sumatra, Indonesia, which is rapidly gaining support as a World Heritage Area. It is one of the richest expanses of tropical rain forest in Southeast Asia and is the last place on earth where Sumatran elephants, rhinos, tigers and orangutans are found together in the wild.

Perth-based minerals exploration company Prosperity Resources lays claim to 41,000 hectares of land in Aceh – including parts of the Leuser Ecosystem – through its 74-84% interests in six local mining firms. Development of its gold and copper projects has been fast-tracked through an agreement with an Indonesian firm, Atjeh Investments. As part of the deal, six other Indonesian firms will work on exploration work on behalf of Prosperity Resources. There is evidence that some of these companies are trying to operate before the plan has even been approved.

Prosperity Resources has so far declined to comment on its proposed plans to destroy key habitat inside the Leuser Ecosystem through its mining activities.

“Despite claims from Indonesian lawyers and environmentalists that a proposed local by-law (overturning Leuser’s protected status) is in fact illegal, the local Acehnese government is considering opening up much of this forest for mining, palm oil cultivation and logging,” said Wildlife Asia Director Clare Campbell. “We are calling on Prosperity Resources to explain if it has been involved in any way pressuring the local government to remove the protected status, or is currently involved in illegal mining inside the Leuser Ecosystem.”

The proposed destruction of high conservation value forests in the region not only poses an enormous threat to wildlife, but also puts local communities at significant threat. Illegal mining in the area has already raised alarm amongst local communities with the emerging threat of mercury poisoning. Local environmental groups are planning to undertake immediate water testing in affected areas to determine the level of impact, and funds are urgently required to assist with these activities.

The area contains critical carbon sinks and forests that are essential for food security, regulating water flow and mitigating climate change. In an area already prone to natural disasters, the increase in forest destruction and inevitable encroachment is an incredibly dangerous decision, and one which will invariably result in an increased loss of lives and huge economic losses to local communities.

“We would urge Prosperity Resources and its investors to reconsider their contribution to the destruction of world heritage value forest in this region,” Ms Campbell said. “Ultimately, their actions could result in the extinction of species such as the Sumatran rhino and Sumatran orangutan. For an Australian-based company to be seen as driving this is simply not acceptable.”

The news comes just a fortnight after a devastating blow to Sumatran rhino conservation with the Australian government cutting A$3 million promised to Indonesia in June last year to assist with conservation of the species.

“We don’t have the luxury of waiting for tomorrow,” Ms Campbell added. “For the future of the Indonesian people, their wildlife and in fact the people of Australia, we must challenge decisions that threaten high conservation value forests. One of the biggest environmental disasters of our time is staring us right in the face. We must act now and invest in the protection rather than destruction of forests and wildlife.”

Funds are urgently required for Wildlife Asia’s “Operation Aceh” appeal. Contributions can be made at www.givenow.com.au/wildlifeasia.

The Leuser Ecosystem is the last place on earth where Sumatran elephants, rhinos, tigers and orangutans are found together in the wild, and is rapidly gaining support as a World Heritage Area. Conservationist are concerned that Australian-based mining firm Prosperity Resources may have been lobbying the Acehnese government to have the protected forests reclassified to allow mining in an area that threatens the critically endangered Sumatran tiger. Photo: Paul Hilton

The Leuser Ecosystem is the last place on earth where Sumatran elephants, rhinos, tigers and orangutans are found together in the wild, and is rapidly gaining support as a World Heritage Area. Conservationist are concerned that Australian-based mining firm Prosperity Resources may have been lobbying the Acehnese government to have the protected forests reclassified to allow mining in an area that threatens the critically endangered Sumatran tiger. Photo: Paul Hilton

ABBOTT GOVERNMENT CUTS LIFELINE FOR CRITICALLY ENDANGERED SUMATRAN RHINO

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

The International conservation community was devastated last week to learn of Julie Bishop’s axing of a 3 million dollar pledge to assist Indonesia with the conservation of one of the most endangered large mammals on earth.

With the global number of Sumatran rhino now believed to be less than 100, this crucial funding was in response to a request for urgent assistance from President Yudoyono. In June 2013, Senator Bob Carr announced that the Australian Government would support Indonesia in their mission to save the rhino from extinction, pledging 3 million over 3 years.

In parliament on Tuesday, Julie Bishop announced that the Sumatran rhino conservation program was ‘a lovely project for the World Wildlife Foundation but not for the Australian aid budget’.

Wildlife Asia Director, Clare Campbell, commented ‘Non Government Organisation’s like Wildlife Asia and WWF most definitely play a significant role in ensuring the protection of wildlife and habitat, largely thanks to generous private and corporate donors who are able to recognise the importance of preserving our future. Whilst the Australian Government may not currently acknowledge this priority, the consequences of the current destruction of wildlife and forests in Indonesia will eventually create significant burden for Australia. We need leaders with the capacity to see beyond our borders, holistically, not purely in terms of economic value’.

Ms Campbell also noted ‘The Coalitions approach to focus on economic growth is short-sighted and incredibly dangerous. The failure to acknowledge the equal importance of environmental preservation in rapidly developing countries like Indonesia will have dire consequences’.
With significant setbacks in relations between Australian and Indonesia at the hands of the Abbott government, as well as several decisions threatening the environment both within Australia and overseas there is rising dissidence amongst the Australian public. ‘The decision to scrap the Sumatran rhino funding is very much seen as an indicator of our governments’ lack of concern for issues relating to wildlife and environmental protection’, said Ms Campbell.

Existing and planned strategies to protect and expand the Sumatran rhino population are now under serious threat as a direct result of this funding cut. The Indonesian government and NGO partners were depending on this funding support to implement new initiatives expected to bring this species back from the brink.

With an immediate shortage in funding, Wildlife Asia encourages direct donations to allow the Rhino Protection Units to maintain their efforts to protect the rhino populations.

Donations can be made at www.givenow.com.au/wildlifeasia
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Photo courtesy of Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary/YABI

Media Contact
Clare Campbell, Director-Wildlife Asia
Clare.campbell@wildlifeasia.org.au
Ph. 0438 992 325

One of the “World’s Most Irreplaceable Protected Areas” Under Threat as Aceh Parliament Passes Controversial Spatial Plan [Jakarta / Indonesia]

PRESS RELEASE – January 19th, 2014
On 27th December 2013 the Aceh Parliament dismayed local community members, NGOs and scientists around the world by passing a highly controversial new land use plan. If approved by Indonesia’s Central Government later this month, the plan (known locally as Qanun RTRWA) will severely threaten Aceh’s last remaining lowland forests and the life support they provide to millions of Acehnese people.
Currently under review by Indonesia’s Central Government, the spatial plan will open up huge areas of Aceh’s ecologically sensitive forests to mining, timber and plantation concessions.
Aceh’s people have long recognised the critical ecological services their forests provide. Local communities rely on these forest ecosystems for clean water for downstream irrigation, agriculture and food production, as well as mitigation of environmental disasters.

Mr Muhammad Nur, Director of WALHI Aceh, representing 35 Acehnese environmental NGOs, has warned the deforestation that will result from the spatial plan will lead to more severe impacts from often catastrophic disasters such as flash floods and landslides.
“In the last six years Aceh has experienced more than 1,000 major floods and close to 300 landslides. This plan will significantly increase both the frequency and severity of such disasters, leading to many more human lives being lost and immeasurable impacts on local livelihoods through destruction of crops and infrastructure.”
Aceh’s unique biodiversity will also face devastating impacts. Indeed, the plan entirely disregards the existence of the Leuser Ecosystem, one of the most important conservation areas in the world, despite the 2.2 million hectares (of its total 2.6 million ha) that lie within Aceh having protected legal status under National Law on Aceh Governance (11/2006), as well as designation as a National Strategic Area for its Environmental Protection Function, under Indonesia’s National Spatial Planning law (26/2007 juncto Government Regulation 26/2008).
Acehnese environmental lawyer, Kamaruddin, declared, “the spatial plan clearly breaches Aceh Governance law no 11/2006. This law obligates Aceh’s Government to protect the Leuser Ecosystem and the fact that the current spatial plan doesn’t even acknowledge its existence opens up all sorts of legal ramifications if it is signed into law.”
Dr Ian Singleton, of the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme, warned, “If the Indonesian Central Government approves Aceh’s spatial plan, the Sumatran elephant, tiger, rhino and orangutan will be pushed to extinction. There is no question that we will see them all disappear in less than a lifetime unless this spatial plan is rejected.”
Ironically, on the same day that Aceh’s Parliament passed the spatial plan, The Jakarta Post (27/12/2013) published an Open Letter written by a consortium of scientists and economists recommending Aceh’s Governor, Dr Zaini Abdullah, nominate the Leuser Ecosystem as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This followed from an article published in the international journal Science (15/11/2013) listing the Leuser Ecosystem as one of the “world’s most irreplaceable protected areas” (Le Saout et al. 2013, p. 803).
“Nationally and internationally, the Leuser Ecosystem plays a critical role in carbon storage and climate regulation”, the Open Letter stated. “Aceh is rightly proud of these ecological services that have been valued at over $US 400 million per year.”
If carried out, the new plan will also undermine the effectiveness of a $1 billion REDD deal between the governments of Indonesia and Norway, aimed at reducing carbon emissions from deforestation and degradation.
Efendi Isma of KPHA (Coalition of Concern for Aceh’s Forests) stated, “We are calling on the Indonesian Central Government to reject the current Aceh spatial plan. We urge the Aceh Government to revise the plan to account for the Leuser Ecosystem’s legally protected status, and to acknowledge the customary management rights of local communities and the Mukims (read: a uniquely Acehnese traditional institution). Leuser’s critically important forests must remain intact so that the immeasurable environmental services and benefits they provide can continue to support the well-being and livelihoods of Aceh’s people over the long term.”
The Save Aceh campaign is supported by scientists, economists and environmentalists. You can help Save Aceh by:
• Tweeting your support for the campaign using #SaveAceh tagging Indonesia’s President @SBYudhoyono.

MEDIA CONTACT:
1. Dr Ian Singleton, Director – Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme. Tel: +62-811650491, Email: mokko123@gmail.com
2. Muhammad Nur, Executive Director – WAHLI Aceh. Tel: +62-8126970494, Email: mnur.walhiaceh@gmail.com
3. Graham Usher, Landscape Protection Specialist, PanEco Foundation. Tel: +62-87766394260, Email: kimabajo1@gmail.com
4. Kamaruddin, Lawyer. Tel: +62-8116700118, Email: kamaruddinaceh@yahoo.co.id
5. Rudi Putra, Conservation Manager – HakA. Tel: +62-8126435929, Email: rhinoleuser@gmail.com

REFERENCE:
Soizic Le Saout, Michael Hoffmann, Yichuan Shi, Adrian Hughes, Cyril Bernard, Thomas M. Brooks, Bastian Bertzky, Stuart H. M. Butchart, Simon N. Stuart, Tim Badman, Ana S. L. Rodrigues, 2013. Protected Areas and Effective Biodiversity Conservation. Science, vol 342, 15 November 2013; Pp 803-805

Decision Pending – Critical Time for Aceh’s Future

logoaceh
URGENT FUNDRAISING APPEAL
The Acehnese Government is pushing to finalise the proposed Spatial Plan in the next coming weeks along with and additional NEW draft governor’s regulation, which opens a door for new permits in large critical areas of the Leuser Ecosystem. If approved, this new plan and the new regulation will result in the rapid devastation of most of Aceh’s remaining lowland forests, the last stronghold for the Sumatran orangutan, tiger, rhino and elephant. This also totally undermines the legal status of the world renowned Leuser Ecosystem. What’s more, it will not only seriously impact biodiversity and regional carbon emissions, but also seriously jeopardize the lives and livelihoods of many thousands of Aceh’s 4 million people

Wildlife Asia is seeking support to avert large-scale forest destruction and help Aceh transition to a more sustainable development path.

We are requesting your urgent assistance. You can help by donating to the Wildlife Asia Operation Aceh Fund. For more information;

WA OPERATION ACEH

For a comprehensive summary of the current situation you can view the following webinar with Ian Singleton from Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Program. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HaeoCrMe4Pg&feature=youtu.be

Donate TODAY at http://www.givenow.com.au/wildlifeasia

This is one of the most important environmental issues of our time. Please act now for a better future.

Current petition can be signed here http://www.change.org/petitions/protect-the-leuser-ecosystem-declare-it-a-world-heritage

Aceh Forest Coalition- PRESS RELEASE – for immediate distribution

 

Aceh Forest Coalition

PRESS RELEASE

31/10/2013 – For immediate distribution – Please Share with relevant networks

 

Details of Aceh Government plans continue to be kept secret as illegal activities continue throughout protected forests.

 

BANDA ACEH / INDONESIA: Today in a public meeting with representatives of Aceh and National Government, Acehnese Community and Environmental Groups continued to call on the Aceh Government to release data and information about Aceh’s new Provincial Spatial Plan.

 

This lack of transparency has received considerable global criticism due to concerns that many thousands of hectares of protected forests will be reclassified and hence made available to logging, palm oil and mining concessions, leading to a dramatic increase in the frequency and severity of landslides and flooding in this ecologically extremely sensitive province.

 

“We have all spent many months kindly requesting and trying to work with the Aceh Government to be more transparent in the development of their new spatial plan asking the details of opening up of protected forest areas, but details of what the Government is proposing still seem to be a very closely guarded secret.” said Efendi, Spokesperson for Aceh Forest Coalition. “It is well known in Aceh that these forests serve an irreplaceable role in providing water, both for domestic use and agriculture, and in mitigating disasters such as floods and landslides, which already kill hundreds of people in the province each year, and huge economic losses to infrastructure and agriculture.

 

“We are all extremely frustrated with the lack of transiency of the process so far, and very concerned that huge areas of the Leuser Ecosystem will be cut apart and fragmented by roads and made available for logging and palm oil conversion. This would be disastrous for Aceh. These forested water catchments are essential for Aceh’s rice production. As far as we can see, the new plan is certainly not in the interests of the majority of Acehnese. Destruction of these forests is solely in the interests of the the short term benefit of a few, already extremely rich and powerful elite.”

 

“Bappeda Aceh Staff, Mr Husnan (Aceh Regional Development and Planning Agency) said in the meeting today that there was no budget allocated for spatial planning activities next year, and they want to have the plan approved before the end of 2013. This is a very dangerous situation, as it seems budget is already being organized to be allocated for the projects from Provincial budget, these roads should be investigated by KPK (the Corruption Eradication Commission) and monitored closely by anti-corruption agencies as the status of most of the forests through which they are already cutting is still protected forest. These roads will not benefit communities, who will see only destruction result. They represent only an opportunity for a few contractors and logging bosses to get rich with Government money.”Said Efendi.

 

“If Aceh’s Government was serious about benefitting the Acehnese community, the spatial plan would protect Aceh’s most important environmental assets for generations to come, not to destroy our forests to line the pockets of the powerful few.” Concluded Efendi Isma ”We totally reject this plan so far. We demand a serious spatial plan to be developed for Aceh based on environmental sensitivity studies, for sustainable long term development. We have not accepted yet the current Spatial Planning process in Aceh but projects are being pushed into the forest before the plan is even made public or approved. This appears to be not only a clear breach of the law, but also a clear breach of the trust of the very people that voted this governor into office. I hope he realizes he will be held responsible for the damage and destruction in Aceh and for ruining the economic prospects for our children and their children to come if he allows Aceh to be destroyed by bad planning.

 

 

Recommendations of Community and NGO who attended Public Discussion:

 

1. Aceh provincial and districts/ city governments harmonize their spatial plans with higher regulations on spatial plan.

 

2. Aceh provincial and district / city governments should provide access to information (such as portal, website, briefs, etc.) related to spatial plan easily and transparently.

 

3. Aceh provincial and district / City governments facilitate the needs of the Adhoc Body (government, indigenous communities, CSOs, private sector) or be part of BKPRA to accelerate the implementation of the Constitutional Court’s decision number 35/2012 regarding indigenous forest.

 

4. Not issuing any concession permit before RTRWA (spatial plan) is ratified

 

5. Civil society become part of BKPRA and BKPRD

 

6. Aceh provincial and district / City governments facilitate preparation of mukim (a mukim consists of several villages) spatial plans.

 

7. Need to develop a plan of advocacy by civil society to measure better the future spatial planning preparations in Aceh.

 

…ends

 

 

For further information please contact:

 

Aceh Forest Coalition (KPHA) Spokeperson

 

Efendi Isma

Phone : 081360160055

Email : kiphah@yahoo.com