22 Jun, 2011
JAKARTA: Indigenous peoples of Indonesian Borneo on Wednesday demanded a halt to internationally backed forest conservation schemes, saying they are trampling their rights and robbing their lands.
The Central Kalimantan chapter of the Indigenous Peoples Alliance issued a statement condemning the projects, including those being implemented under a $1 billion deal with Norway to cut carbon emissions from deforestation.
The projects, which also involve the Australian government, CARE International and WWF environmental group, fall under a UN-backed conservation drive known as Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD).
Indigenous alliance secretary general Abdon Nababan said the rights of traditional landowners had been ignored, and forest-dependent communities faced being driven off their lands or denied their customary livelihoods.
“REDD could be the cause of cultural genocide as most indigenous people live in primary forests and peatland areas” which fall under a forestry moratorium announced by the Indonesian government last month, he told AFP.
“Its implementation will surely drive them away, though they have lived there for hundreds or thousands of years,” he added.
Several studies have found that indigenous peoples are good forest managers but Nababan said schemes like REDD — part of UN talks for post-2012 climate action — handed control to corporations and environmental groups.
“There is no other choice but to appoint indigenous people as the REDD projects’ main actors. They have traditional knowledge in managing and safeguarding our forests over centuries,” he said.
The alliance called for an “immediate moratorium” on all REDD projects in Central Kalimantan until various conditions are met, including recognition of indigenous peoples’ “political sovereignty” and “collective rights”.
The Indonesian government’s point-man on climate change and REDD issues, Agus Purnomo, said he was unable to immediately comment.
Indonesia is often cited as the world’s third biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, due mainly to rampant deforestation by the palm oil, mining and paper industries.