Indonesia: the land of pristine forests

The Sentani lake with the Cyclops mountain in the background

The Sentani lake with the Cyclops mountain in the background

‘The mist is the breath of the forests’, said Godi Utama, my Indonesian colleague when I met him last year in Bangkok. We were having a discussion about Indonesia’s forests and biodiversity and Godi made this powerful statement that stayed with me.  However, there was an alarm in his voice as he spoke. He expressed his deep worry for the increasingly disappearing forest cover in his country.

I made up my mind to visit Indonesia and see the natural beauty myself. Finally this year, I was offered a chance to visit the country for work and I grabbed the opportunity to learn more about Indonesia and the much talked about forests.

A variety of insects are found in these forests

A variety of insects are found in these forests

I reached Papua, the Indonesian province, after several connecting flights from India and the very next day, headed for the Cyclops mountain forest. The anticipation to see the beauty of the forest was way beyond the jet-lag I was suffering from. We left for the forest at the crack of dawn.

The island province of Papua is estimated to have over 16,000 species of plants and is home to the world’s longest lizards.  The biological diversity of the forest was evident enough from the countless number of spiders and butterflies we spotted in different shapes and colors.

The forest was unlike the forests I have seen before. It was mountainous and looking over the vastness of the ocean. The top of the mountain was heavily covered by mist just as my colleague, Godi had mentioned. I thought to myself that maybe this must be the breath of the forest. Tiny streams of a river passed through the forest and joined the ocean. We were lucky enough to visit the beach where the streams finally meet the oceans.

The water was crystal clear and as luck would have it, we even spotted several dolphins galloping away in the ocean. It was a sight to remember. A dip in the cool ocean made me appreciate the beauty of the Cyclops mountain forest even more than before.

Forest destruction to give way to mines in one of the world's last remaining ancient forests in Indonesia

Forest destruction to give way to mines in one of the world’s last remaining ancient forests in Indonesia.

Indonesia accounts for at least 20% of the total world’s biodiversity. It is home to over 30,000 recorded species of plants and over 3,000 mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians.  What is even more fascinating is the fact that scientists believe that over half of Indonesia’s biodiversity still remains unrecorded.

With such abundance in nature and life, Indonesia as a nation is poised to be sought after by nature enthusiasts, conservationists and scientists. However, the beauty has come at a cost and unfortunately it is the industries that are destroying these pristine forests for logging, palm oil plantations and mining. To quote in numbers, 50 years ago, 82% was the forest cover of the total land area in Indonesia. However due to rampant deforestation for palm oil plantations and mining, the forest cover today  has come down to only 48%.

Dancers from Kayopulau

The Rainbow Warrior will reach Indonesia on May 9 to campaign for the forests. The ship is welcomed here on a previous similar mission by Traditional dancers.

Growing economies like India also contribute to the deforestation in Indonesia. The growing demand for palm oil imports in India is furthering the motives of palm oil producing companies like Duta Palma to cut down these ancient Indonesian forests for planting palm trees. In the past years, the deforestation has had a devastating effect on the wildlife and the biodiversity of the nation. Sumatran Tigers and Orangutans are losing their habitats and are enlisted on the endangered species list.

Greenpeace has been working tirelessly in Indonesia to save the forests from the greedy and polluted hands of the industries that are negligent about the environmental impacts of deforestation. Starting 9 May 9 until June 8 2013, Greenpeace’s flagship Rainbow Warrior III will be in Indonesia to campaign and advocate for the conservation of the country’s biodiversity and call for urgent action to ensure the treasure of Indonesia’s forests.

Inflatable Boat with Banner

Indian palm oil consumption is contributing to forest destruction in Indonesia. It is imperative to protect these forest before they are lost forever.

As an urban consumer, I had never given a serious thought about the source of the oil in which my food is cooked. Visiting the Cyclops forest in Indonesia changed the way I consume my food and made me question the destructive practices of industries that are destroying the forests. I do feel that it is a collective responsibility of not just the Indonesians but also the rest of the world to oppose the clearing of the Indonesian rainforests.

Trees are the lungs of the earth and by destroying them; we are not only contributing to climate change but also destroying the wonderful gift of biodiversity. Mankind must realize that we cannot sustain ourselves in isolation by turning a blind eye to the biodiversity of the planet.

Author: Pari Trivedi

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