19 February 2012

Large Area of New Guinea Stripped of Protection for Agribusiness

More than 400,000 hectares (1 million acres) of land in Indonesian New Guinea — including 350,000 hectares of carbon-storing peatland — was stripped of its protected status to facilitate the expansion of a government-based agribusiness project, according to a new report

e360 digest | 17 Feb 2012

In an analysis of revisions to Indonesia’s moratorium on new forest concessions — including a comparison of maps from when the moratorium was published in May 2011 and after revisions were adopted in November 2011 — the Jakarta-based NGO Greenomics-Indonesia found that 406,718 hectares of previously protected land have been excised for use by The Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate (MIFEE), a massive agricultural project in southwestern New Guinea.

While government officials say the project will ensure the nation’s food and energy security, critics say the revised moratorium will mostly benefit agribusiness developers. Although the forest moratorium includes exemptions for some crops, including sugar cane and rice, opponents are concerned that the new revisions will open large swaths of land to oil palm development, which is not exempted.

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