In Indonesia, deforestation exacerbates disasters caused by extreme weather and climate change – Global News (Trending Perfect)


JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Roads turned into brown rivers, strong currents swept away homes, and bodies were pulled from the mud during deadly floods and landslides after… Heavy rain fell in West Sumatra in early March, marking one of Indonesia's latest deadly natural disasters.

Government officials attributed the floods to heavy rainfall, but environmental groups pointed to the disaster as the latest example of deforestation and environmental degradation intensifying the effects of extreme weather across Indonesia.

“This disaster occurred not only because of extreme weather factors, but because of the environmental crisis,” the Indonesian Environmental Rights Group, the Indonesian Environmental Rights Group, wrote in a statement. “If the environment continues to be ignored, we will continue to reap environmental disasters.”

A vast tropical archipelago stretching across the equator, Indonesia is home to the world's third largest rainforest, with a diverse array of endangered wildlife and plants, including orangutans, elephants and giant, flowering forest flowers. Some live elsewhere.

For generations, forests have also provided livelihoods, food and medicine while playing a central role in the cultural practices of millions of indigenous people in Indonesia.

Since 1950, more than 74 million hectares (285,715 square miles) of Indonesian rainforest — an area twice the size of Germany — have been cut, burned or degraded for the development of palm oil, paper plantations, rubber, mining and other commodities, according to Global. Forest monitoring.

Indonesia is the largest producer of palm oil, one of the largest exporters of charcoal, and the largest producer of paper pulp. It also exports oil, gas, rubber, tin and other resources. It also has the world's largest reserves of nickel, a critical material for electric cars, solar panels and other goods needed for the transition to green energy.

Indonesia has consistently ranked as one of the largest global emitters of greenhouse gases, with its emissions stemming from the burning of fossil fuels, deforestation and peatland fires, according to the Global Carbon Project.

It is also highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, including extreme events such as floods and droughts, long-term changes caused by sea level rise, changes in rainfall patterns and increasing temperatures, according to the World Bank. In recent decades, the country has already seen the effects of climate change: more heavy rains, landslides and floods during the rainy season, and more fires during the longer dry season.

But forests can help play a vital role in reducing the impact of some extreme weather events, says Aida Greenberry, a sustainability expert who focuses on Indonesia.

Floods can be slowed by trees and plants absorbing rainwater and reducing erosion. In the dry season, forests release moisture that helps mitigate the effects of drought, including fires.

But when forests diminish, so do those benefits.

2017 study Reported that forest conversion and deforestation expose bare soil to rainfall, causing soil erosion. Repeated harvesting activities – such as those on palm oil plantations – and the removal of ground vegetation further compact the soil, causing rain to run off the surface rather than entering groundwater reservoirs. According to research, downstream erosion also increases sediment in rivers, making rivers shallower and increasing flood risks.

After deadly floods in Sumatra in early March, West Sumatra Governor Mahildi Ansharullah said there were strong indications of illegal logging around sites affected by floods and landslides. He added that this, coupled with heavy rainfall, inadequate sewerage systems and inappropriate housing development, contributed to the disaster.

Environmental experts and activists have pointed out that deforestation is exacerbating disasters in other areas of Indonesia as well: in 2021, environmental activists partly blamed deadly floods in Kalimantan on environmental degradation caused by large-scale mining and palm oil operations. In Papua, deforestation was partly blamed for floods and landslides that killed more than a hundred people in 2019.

There have been some signs of progress: In 2018, Indonesian President Joko Widodo froze new permits for palm oil plantations for three years. The rate of deforestation slowed between 2021-2022, according to government data.

But experts warn that deforestation in Indonesia is unlikely to stop anytime soon as the government continues to press ahead with new mining and infrastructure projects such as new nickel smelters and cement plants.

“A lot of land use permits and land-based investment have already been granted to companies, and many of these areas are already vulnerable to disasters,” said Ari Rumbas, a forestry expert at Greenpeace based in Indonesia.

President-elect Prabowo SubiantoHe, who is due to take office in October, has promised to continue Widodo's development policy, including large-scale food plantations, mining and other infrastructure projects all linked to deforestation.

Environment watchdogs also warn that Indonesia's environmental protections are weakening, including the passage of the controversial Omnibus Law, which abolished a provision of the Forest Law relating to the minimum area of ​​forest that must be preserved in development projects.

“The removal of this article makes us very concerned (about deforestation) in the coming years,” Rumbas said.

While experts and activists recognize that development is essential to the survival of the Indonesian economy, they argue that it must be done in a way that is environmentally sensitive and includes better land planning.

“We can't continue down the same path we've been on,” sustainability expert Greenberry said. “We need to make sure that the soil, the land in the forest does not become extinct.”


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