Indonesia approves coal road project through forest that hosts tigers, elephants
The Indonesian government has granted permission to a coal company to build a road that would cut through the highly biodiverse Harapan forest in Sumatra.
The road is for transporting coal from the company’s mine to power plants in South Sumatra province.
Experts have called on the company to have the road skirt the forest and use an existing road network, but the company has not issued any revision of its design.
Conservationists and indigenous communities have warned that the road could devastate the ecosystem, create more habitat fragmentation and facilitate further encroachment for logging, hunting and agriculture.
This was our first time planting trees right in a forest,” said Rifai, 14. The planting site is part of a 10-hectare (25-acre) swath of the Harapan forest that was razed by illegal loggers last September.
but their efforts had already been rendered effectively useless by then, thanks to the environment ministry’s approval for a road to be built — and forest cleared — to serve nearby coal mines.
For decades, the expansion of oil palm plantations and incursion of illegal loggers ate away at the forest. But today the road project is the single biggest threat to this patch of biodiverse forest in central Sumatra.
cutting a road through the forest could devastate the ecosystem
The target is to restore these degraded areas to their previous forested state, thus preventing them from being permanently turned into palm plantations or smallholder farmland.
Another potential impact would be an increase in human-wildlife conflict, said Mangarah Silalahi, chief executive of REKI.
Conservationists say the coal road doesn’t have to go through the forest. The South Sumatran provincial government’s assessment committee last year ordered the company to have the road skirt the forest, using an existing road network
Anti Forest Destruction, estimates the deforestation as a result of the project will result in 8.84 trillion rupiah ($615 million) worth of lost ecosystem services.