JAKARTA, Oct 9 (Reuters) Indonesia must stop the destruction of its rainforests and commit to a moratorium on conversion of peat swamp forests into farmland, Greenpeace said today.
Indonesia had the fastest pace of deforestation in the world between 2000-2005, destroying an area of forest the size of 300 soccer pitches every hour, according to the environment group.
The Greenpeace appeal came ahead of a UN climate change summit in December, where participants from 189 countries are expected to gather in Bali to discuss a new deal to fight global warming. The existing pact, the Kyoto Protocol, runs out in 2012.
''The forests in Indonesia are being destroyed. This has to end,'' Hasporo, forest campaigner for Greenpeace Southeast Asia, said in a statement.
''The Indonesian government must act and before December's Kyoto Protocol meeting in Bali, commit to a moratorium on conversion of peatland forests and ensure the implementation of an effective action plan for fire fighting and prevention.'' The Indonesian government says it must be given incentives including a payout of 5-20 dollar per hectare to preserve its forests. It also wants to negotiate a fixed price for other forms of biodiversity, including coral reefs.
Indonesia has a total forest area of more than 225 million acres , or about 10 per cent of the world's remaining tropical forests.
But the tropical Southeast Asian country -- whose forests are a treasure trove of plant and animal species including the endangered orangutans -- has already lost an estimated 72 per cent of its original frontier forest.
As part of its efforts to save Indonesia's forests, Greenpeace launched a Forest Defenders Camp in Sumatra island's Riau province with some 40 ''Forest Defenders'' tasked with monitoring forest fires and gathering information on deforestation caused by palm oil and pulp wood plantations.
''Our people consider the forests a sacred inheritance from our ancestors and we have an obligation to protect it because it is our source of life,'' Ali Mursyid, a community leader from a Riau village, said in a statement.
Riau's total forest areas have plunged to 2.7 million hectares in 2004 from 6.4 million hectares in 1982, data from Greenpeace's local partner, Riau-based environment group Jikalahari, shows.
Greenpeace said companies continue to burn vast swathes of peat forests in Riau province for palm oil and pulp wood plantations despite a government ban, contributing to the annual haze that chokes the region.
Peat fires can rage for months in Riau, which is just across the Strait of Malacca from Singapore and Malaysia, and add to a choking smog of haze that is an annual health menace to millions of people in the region.
REUTERS SG PM1550