On the beautiful island of Sumatra there is a beautiful province called Aceh (pronounced ‘atch-ay’), where tigers, rhino, elephants and orangutangs live side-by-side in the Leuser (pronounced ‘le-sir’) National Park and Ecosystem.
Though it’s been recommended as a potential UNESCO World Heritage site by leading scientists and the International Journal of Science, it hasn’t actually been granted this status.
The fate of this area lies in the hands of Dr. Zaini Abdullah, Governor of Aceh and you! He is under immense pressure to implement a new law that will override protected forest status and allow new roads and agricultural concessions to be built. If this happens, not only will the world lose an irreplaceable area of prime forest but will threaten the status of all the critically endangered species that call it home.
This petition to the Governor of Aceh demands that no new laws are implemented and that Leuser is officially made a World Heritage site. Decisions on this new law will be made in the next few weeks, and affects not only the flora and fauna of the area, but the local people of Aceh too.
Working together with other NGOs we believe that we can make a difference with this petition, we do not normally ask – but we’d be very grateful if you added your voice to this campaign.
#SaveAceh sign this petition to stop protect Aceh’s forests and the critically endangered species that live there!
We’ve heavily simplified this matter – for those that wish to learn more, you can check out this youtube video and below the official press release from the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme leading the campaign.
PRESS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE DISTRIBUTION, Wednesday 11th December
International Campaign supports Governor Aceh World Heritage Nomination and asks him to avoid being trapped into ‘illegal’ regulation allowing the destruction of world renowned Leuser Ecosystem
Aceh’s Governor is under pressure to sign a new regulation contravening Aceh Governance Law No 11 / 2006, that was mandated under the Aceh Helsinki Peace Accord, provoking international scientists, environmentalists and community representatives to launch campaign urging against illegal destruction of the Leuser Ecosystem.
[Jakarta] Paragraph 150 of Aceh Governance Law No 11 2006, which was mandated in the Helsinki Peace Agreement between the Government of Indonesia and the Aceh Seperatist movement states very clearly that “National Government, Provincial Government and District and Municipal Governments are forbidden to issue destructive business permits within the Leuser Ecosystem.” Nevertheless, right now Aceh’s Governor is being pushed to sign a new Governor’s Regulation regarding issuance of cultivation permits within the Leuser Ecosystem, opening up the possibility of new permits being granted and legalisation of current illegal activities within the Ecosystem.
This draft has the potential to cause the destruction of at least 643,602 ha of the total 2.25 million ha region of the Leuser Ecosystem that sits within Aceh Province. The Leuser Ecosystem is renowned globally for its unique and extremely rich biodiversity.
Dr Ian Singleton, Director of the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme explained “The Sumatran orangutan (Pongo abelii) is a unique species, genetically distinct from its relative the Bornean orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus). It is also listed by the IUCN red list of threatened species as Critically Endangered. The proposed new Aceh Spatial Plan and Governor’s regulation have the potential to finally drive the species extinct within just a few years.”
This is causing major concern among the global community as the Leuser Ecosystem represents the last real hope for the survival of several iconic megafauna species. “It is no exaggeration that the existence of Sumatra’s endemic elephants, orangutans, tigers and rhinos 20 years from now entirely depends on decisions being made within Aceh’s Government this month, December 2013.” He stressed.
Environmentalists, conservation experts and Aceh community representatives today launched a petition via change.org to Aceh Governor Dr Zaini Abdullah. The goal being to urge the Governor not to sign the new regulation, drafted by the Provincial Forestry Department, as it undermines sustainable development goals and the conservation of Aceh’s biodiversity, and increases the threat to human safety and local economies from increasingly common and severe environmental catastrophes.
The draft Governor’s Regulation adds to a list of previous policies that have already allowed the cutting of 14 new roads and the conversion of 80,000 ha of Aceh’s forests. All of these policies are contrary to a proposal by international scientists to preserve the Leuser Ecosystem by designating it a new UNESCO World Heritage Site. This proposal follows a recent article in the internationally esteemed journal “Science” announcing that the World Conservation Union (IUCN) lists the Leuser Ecosystem as one of the “World’s Most Irreplaceable Protected Areas.”
In fact, the acknowledgement of the existence of the Leuser Ecosystem as a National Strategic Area with Protection Functions within the text of the new Draft Aceh Governor’s Regulation is also very confusing, since nowhere in the text of the new Provincial Spatial Plan for Aceh is there any mention whatsoever of the existence of the Leuser Ecosystem, nevermind any recognition of its status as a National Strategic Area.
“Because of this we wish to remind the Governor that he must continue to protect the Leuser Ecosystem as a National Strategic Area.” Stated M.Nur, Droector of WALHI Aceh (Friends of the Earth Aceh) who launched the petition www.change.org/LeuserHeritage.
M.Nur continued, explaining that the proposal by the Aceh Forest Department that the Governor approves the new Governor’s Regulation to exploit the Leuser Ecosystem for cultivation is in clear contravention is a deliberate attempt to mislead him. “The draft Regulation proposed contravenes Aceh Governance Law No 11 / 2006, National Law No 26/2007 on Spatial Planning and Government Regulation No 26/2008, also on Spatial Planning. If he still proceeds to sign it, we will have no choice but to seek a Judicial Review by the Supreme Court.” He declared.
“We ask everyone to show their support for the protection of the Leuser Ecosystem by reminding the Governor not to be swayed by his Forestry Department. It is clear that the Forestry Department is being manipulated and influenced by the palm oil lobby, who are desperate to get their hands on the Leuser Ecosystem’s forests.” Explained Kamaruddin, a lawyer currently working on several ongoing and high profile legal cases against companies illegally destroying Aceh’s Tripa peat swamp forests, also within the Leuser Ecosystem.
Obtaining ‘cultivation concession’ permits (izin usaha budidaya perkebunan) for oil palm plantations is just a tactic used by palm oil companies to obtain land use rights inside the Leuser Ecosystem.
Graham Usher, a landscape protection specialist for the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme and former member of the previous specialist forest sector review team in Aceh clarified that there are no more forest areas within Aceh that can be legally or safely converted. The forest sector review recommended that any forestry industry in Aceh must be based on replanting and restoring non-forested areas and long term sustainable management.”
According to Usher, if Aceh’s watersheds continue to be denuded local communities and economies will only lose. Hundreds of people are killed each year in Aceh already, due to catastrophic flash floods, and this number will undoubtedly increase dramatically if the new spatial plan and Governor’s regulation are signed into law. Opening up of watersheds threatens water supplies for agriculture and industry. “I wonder if the Governor and his Government really understand this, and are aware that they will be held responsible for the increase in loss of lives and damage to economies that will result from their decisions?” he declared.
Rudi Putra, 2013 winner of the Future for Nature Award explained how local communities in the District of Aceh Tamiang are extremely supportive and enthusiastic if illegal forest encroachers are evicted and their forests are allowed to regenerate. He emphasized that, “In fact, restoring these lowland forests is not difficult. Its actually relatively cheap and easy. If left undisturbed the forest reclaims the land itself and regrows very well. In our opinion, Aceh could actually do very well in terms of investment and developing a productive forestry and plantation sector, but the Leuser Ecosystem must be preserved. Investment should focus instead on currently existing non-forested areas, most of which are less than optimally managed or even totally abandoned.” He stated.
Riswan, a GIS specialist confirmed, “our experience in the Tripa peat swamp forests, after several oil plantations there were abandoned for several years during the Aceh separatist conflict, also highlights just how quickly forests can recover and recolonize cleared areas, if drainage canals created by companies can be quickly blocked and closed. It would be far better if the Government and investors developed non-forest areas, and actually expanded Aceh’s forests for the benefit of the next generations. Why does investment always end with exploitation? Why can’t investment be targeted at development and expansion of natural resources with the restoration of forests in already denuded but underutilized areas.?” He asked.
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