World Environment Day saw a brand new national park established in Sumatra, in a move that should threaten the Palm Oil producers who are busy destroying the region’s legendary rainforest. On the other hand corruption means the region’s national parks remain far from secure, far from safe.
Zamrud National Park – the third national park in the Riau region
The Zamrud spans almost 31, 500 hectares and contains two big lakes, Pulau Besar Lake and Bawah. It’s home to 38 bird species, including 12 protected species, as well as the super-rare Sumatran tiger and sun bear. The Zamrud National Park is Riau province’s third national park. The new park is in the Siak district of Riau province, a place where unique peat swamps have already been drained for oil palm and pulpwood production. As a result they’re experiencing fierce annual wildfires that give off a toxic haze and cause even more distress to the forest and the creatures who live there.
Weak enforcement, greed, short term thinking and corruption mar Indonesia’s national parks
The saddest thing of all is that the illegal deforestation happens because of weak law enforcement and corruption, the reason why Riau’s older national parks have been so badly damaged. Tesso Nilo in particular is full of illegal oil palm plantations, linked to the supply chains of household name brands like Unilever and Nestle. Both organisations have promised to eliminate deforestation from their supply networks, but progress is extremely slow – if not non-existent – on the ground.
More than 40% of Riau’s forests have already been cleared
In September and October 2015 wildfires emitted more CO2 than the entire EU, a shameful indictment of the palm oil and pulpwood industries’ greed and short-term thinking.
Since 2001 over 40% of Riau’s forests have been cleared for industry, according to the World Resources Institute.
While we’d like to congratulate the Indonesian government for setting a new national park in place to protect their precious rainforests, we must also lay the blame at their feet for ongoing deforestation. As long as corruption and greed continue to rule the day, the world’s rainforests will remain under threat.