[STATEMENT] World Rainforest Day

June 22, 2024

On World Rainforest Day, the Asia Pacific Network of Environmental Defenders joins the world in celebrating a beloved biome: rainforests. Evergreen, humid, and teeming with all kinds of life, rainforests cover only 6% of the Earth’s surface but house half of all terrestrial biodiversity1, including charismatic species such as the orangutan and the Sumatran tiger. Rainforests are also a crucial key in the climate crisis: they regulate the climate and remove and store carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. However, rainforests and the communities depending on them all over the world are under threat, as deforestation runs rampant and tons of once-stored carbon is released back into the atmosphere. For example, Southeast Asia, home to nearly 15% of the world’s tropical forests, has already lost more than half of all its original forest, and continues to lose at least 1.2% of it annually 2.
Indonesia is a key country for rainforests, as it is home to the third largest expanse of rainforests in the world3. While deforestation in Indonesia started in the Dutch colonial era, it accelerated with the government provision of logging concessions in the 1970s. To this day, the conversion of rainforests, particularly for mining and palm oil plantations, is a primary driver of deforestation in Indonesia 4. Worse, environmental defenders, especially indigenous communities defending their customary land, have been unjustly persecuted by state and private actors who prioritize economic development at the expense of locals’ environmental and human rights.
APNED calls for the end of these destructive mining and plantation projects, and accompanying attacks against the defenders of rainforests and communities in Indonesia and other countries. A recent prominent case happened in Bangkal, Central Kalimantan, in October 2023, wherein indigenous villagers protesting against the land-grabbing of the plantation firm PT Hamparan Masawit Bangun Persada were shot at by the Indonesian police, resulting in one dead and two others injured5. The same company, an affiliate of the BEST Group, has had a history of deploying violence against local communities, including the arrest of farmers in 2020 on charges of theft, when they had harvested oil palm on their own land, which the company had illegally cultivated6. Land grabbing and accompanying violent attacks are chronic for mega palm oil plantations. Deforestation of rainforests is also perpetually blamed on smallholder farmers, yet much of small-scale agriculture is directly linked to industrial oil palm corporations under the  “plasma” scheme, and corporations have been found to fail at properly allocating land for locals 7.

World Rainforest Day marks a good opportunity for all to examine how rainforests are disappearing to exclusive development interests by states and corporations, who also respond to excess demand in countries in the Global North. APNED enjoins all to continue standing for the rights of local and indigenous communities and other environmental defenders in protecting our rainforests, fighting climate change, and advancing climate justice.

 

#WorldRainforestDay #DefendEnviDefenders

References

[1] Rainforest Partnership. (2024). June 22 is World Rainforest Day.  https://www.worldrainforestday.org/about-us ↩ [2] Lai, O. (2022, March 7). Deforestation in Southeast Asia: Causes and Solutions. Earth.org. https://earth.org/deforestation-in-southeast-asia/ ↩ [3] Shahreen, S. (2022, February 2). Vanishing Act: Deforestation in Indonesia. Earth.org. https://earth.org/deforestation-in-southeast-asia/ ↩ [4] Read more on mining and plantations:  Cross, D. T. (2022, September 13). Industrial mining is wreaking havoc with tropical forests. Sustainability Times. https://www.sustainability-times.com/sustainable-business/industrial-mining-is-wreaking-havoc-with-tropical-forests/ Bulolo, C. (2023, January 19). Coal extraction in Indonesia is driving deforestation. Eco-Business. https://www.eco-business.com/news/coal-extraction-in-indonesia-is-driving-deforestation/   Austin, K. G., Schwantes, A., Gu, Y., & Kasibhatla, P. S. (2019). What causes deforestation in Indonesia?. Environmental Research Letters, 14(2), 024007. https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/aaf6db#erlaaf6dbs3 ↩
[5] Jong, H.N. (2023, October 10). Indonesian police slammed after protester demanding rightful land is shot dead. Mongabay. https://news.mongabay.com/2023/10/indonesian-police-slammed-after-protester-demanding-rightful-land-is-shot-dead/ ↩ [6] APNED & Center for Environmental Concerns – Philippines. (2021). Reclaiming the Narrative: The Struggles of Environment Defenders in Five Countries in Southeast Asia.  https://apned.net/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/Reclaiming-the-Narrative-colored-web.pdf ↩ [7] Jong, H.N. (2023, July 24). Most Indonesian palm oil firms not sharing land with small farmers as required: audit. Mongabay. https://news.mongabay.com/2023/07/most-indonesian-palm-oil-firms-not-sharing-land-with-small-farmers-as-required/ ↩