Sumatra’s Bukit Tigapuluh: a natural asset under threat

posted by Margaret Ran

Sumatra’s Bukit Tigapuluh landscape is one of the worlds richest collections of lowland rainforest, biodiversity, and site of the world’s only successful Orangutan rehabilitation program.

Margaret Swink’s great depiction of the threat the pulp-and-paper industry poses to the Tigapuluh, and how current climate negotiations in Bangkok completely fail to offer up a Reduced Emissions through Avoided Deforestation (REDD) based solution to save this critically important landscape.

Sinar Mas’ pulp and paper operation in Tigapuluh has shown to be an immediate and dangerous threat:

Climate chaos? The carbon emissions emitted by Sinar Mas’ Tigapuluh operations will be equal to one tenth of total emissions reductions achieved under the first commitment period of the Kyoto protocol.

Ecological effects? Leveling rainforests hundreds of thousands of years old will destroy all key ecological functions of the Tigapuluh landscape.

Social impacts? Local people are forced off their land, attracted to dangerous debt schemes, and forced to work as poorly paid day laborers.

Now Rainforest Action Network (RAN) has teamed up with The Wilderness Society and The Australian Orangutan Project to draw a line in the remaining forest that Sinar Mas’ pulp-and-paper industry dare not cross.  There are hundreds of concerned experts watching Sinar Mas’ next steps in Tigapuluh, will they convert the defined buffer area of this protected area to cheap paper products and a monoculture of eucalyptus and oil palm?

The need for a post-kyoto climate agreement in 2010 to provide effective mechanisms to save tropical landscapes from agribusiness giants such as Sinar Mas, and Raja Garuda Mas (now called Royal Golden Eagle) is clear. But will the climate negotiators in Bangkok see the smoke signals?

David Gilbert is a Research Fellow at RAN. He has worked in the tropical forests of the Amazon and Indonesia, with a special focus on forest conservation and indigenous rights.