JAKARTA, 7 August 2008 (AFP) - Environmental group Greenpeace hung a banner reading "Stop Deforestation" on the Indonesian forestry ministry Wednesday and called for a moratorium on palm oil concessions on forested land.
“The forestry ministry is currently part of the deforestation problem. The ministry as the state agency tasked with protecting the forests is in fact promoting forest destruction," Greenpeace activist Bustar Maitar said.
"This has to stop now to arrest our greenhouse gas emissions and to ensure protection of our biodiversity for future generations."
Greenpeace accused the government of issuing palm oil plantation permits on millions of hectares (acres) of forests, even though only a fraction had been cleared and planted.
"There is a clear case of the illegal 'land banking' practice of purchasing land with the intent to hold onto it until such a time as it is highly profitable to sell it on to others," Maitar said in a statement.
Greenpeace said Indonesia, the world's biggest producer of palm oil, was destroying its rainforests faster than any other major forested country.
Tropical forest destruction is responsible for nearly 20 percent of global greenhouse gases blamed for climate change, making Indonesia the world's third biggest greenhouse gas emitter behind the United States and China, it said.
Environmental group WWF said earlier this year that Indonesia's Riau province alone had lost 4.2 million hectares (10.4 million acres) or 65 percent of its forests in the past 25 years.
The clearing of forests and the degradation of carbon-rich peatlands over that time means the province now emits more carbon than the Netherlands, it said in a report.
A forest ministry spokesman said two million hectares of forested land had been legally converted to palm oil plantations across Indonesia and another two million had been earmarked for conversion.
He said a "review" would be undertaken of the land for which plantation permits had been issued but where no clearing work had begun.
--courtesy to AFP