Urgent Action on Leuser Ecosystem Required (taken from the Indonesian Conservation Newsletter)

29th November 2002

Dear Friends

Some of the world's most critically endangered species, including Sumatran orangutan, elephant, tiger, and rhinoceros are facing a serious and desperate new threat to their survival due to a government plan to build several major new roads that will drastically fragment a crucial part of their current range. Viable alternatives to the plan remain, but the local government of the province of Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam (NAD), is likely to continue with its intention to construct these roads, and further destroy and fragment large, and in some cases critical parts, of the habitat of these species. Furthermore, they will irreparably damage the life support systems of the local human communities.

The proposed roads will divide up what is known as the Leuser Ecosystem, a unique conservation area that is the only place in the world where the above species can still be found living side by side. It is also the only area where the Sumatran orangutan still occurs in anything even approaching viable numbers. This species is well recognised as the great ape that is likely to become extinct in the wild first, probably within the next 5 to 10 years, if not sooner. The proposed roads are so located that they will cut in half most of the few remaining viable populations of one of man's closest living relatives and therefore directly be responsible for its ultimate demise. They will also drastically impact the catchment areas of several extremely important rivers in the region, resulting in further depletion of natural water supplies to villages and towns and increased erosion, flooding and other natural disasters.

The primary function of the roads would be to connect the eastern and western coastal areas of Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam. There can be no doubt that severe deforestation will take place along these roads as a result, stretching deeper into the surrounding forests. This has so often been the case with similar developments in Indonesia in the past and there are innumerable examples to verify this. Unfortunately, and ironically, the resultant long term physical damage and financial costs tend to far outweigh any economic benefits derived from the projects themselves. The plan will also violate several Indonesian regulations such as Act No 5/1994, ratifying the International Convention on Biodiversity, and Act No 5/1990 on the Conservation of Natural Resources and their Ecosystem, but despite this, it seems that the only hope to prevent the go ahead lies with huge and sustained international pressure.

We therefore implore the International community to take up the challenge. As a first step we urge anyone and everyone to take a few moments of their time to write to the Governor of Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam and the Minister of Settlement and Infrastructure. Letters and faxes should request that the current plan be halted immediately and alternative solutions examined for linking up the communities in east and west Aceh that do not have such a huge impact on the environment, and the numerous critically endangered species and embattled local communities that it supports.

Letters and faxes should primarily be sent to the two addresses below.

Mr. Abdullah Puteh
Governor, Province of Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam
Jl. Nyak Arief
Banda Aceh, Indonesia
Tel: +62-651-21935
Fax: + 62-651-51091

Mr. Soenarno
Minister of Settlement and Infrastructure
Jl. Pattimura 20, Kebayoran Baru
Jakarta, Indonesia
Tel: +62-21-7262805/7203962
Fax: +62-21-7260769

Letters and faxes can also be sent to the following names:

Her Excellency Megawati Soekarnoputri
President of the Republic of Indonesia
Istana Negara, Jl. Medan Merdeka Utara
Jakarta, Indonesia

Mr. Akbar Tanjung
Chairman, Indonesian House of Representative (DPR-RI (Komisi V))
Jl. Jend. Gatot Subroto No. 6, Senayan
Jakarta, Indonesia
Tel: +62-21-5756019
Fax: +62-21-5706057

Mr. Amien Rais
Chairman, Council of Peoples Assembly (MPR-RI)
Jl. Jendral Gatot Soebroto No.6, Senayan
Jakarta 10270, Indonesia
Tel: +62 21 572-5965, 571-5644, 571-5268

Mr. Nabiel Makarim
Minister of Environment
Gedung B. Kav. 24, Jl. D.I. Panjaitan
Jakarta, Indonesia
Tel: +62-21-8520392
Fax: +62-21-8580087

Mr. M. Prakosa
Minister, Department of Forestry
Gedung Manggala Wanabakti Blok I, Lt. 4
Jl. Jend. Gatot Subroto, Senayan
Jakarta 10270, Indonesia
Tel: +62-21-5731820/5700278
Fax: +62-21-5700226

Mr. Kwik Kian Gie
Head Indonesian Development Planning Body (Bappenas) Jakarta
Jl. Taman Suropati No. 2
Jakarta 10310, Indonesia
Tel: +62-21 336 027 / 390 5690
Fax: +62-21 314 5374

Mr. Hartlamer Susetyo
Head of BTNGL Aceh Tenggara, North Sumatra
Jl. Kutacane-Blangkejeren No. 17
Tanah Merah, Kutacane
Aceh Tenggara, Nanggroe Aceh
Darussalam, Indonesia
Tel: +62-629-21358/ +62-61-7868986
Fax: +62-629-21016

His Excellency the Ambassador of Indonesia
Embassy of Indonesia
2020 Massachusetts Avenue NW
Washington DC 20036, USA

His Excellency the Ambassador of Indonesia
Embassy of Indonesia
38 Grosvenor Square
London W1X 9AD, England

His Excellency the Ambassador of Indonesia
Embassy of Indonesia
8 Darwin Avenue, Yarralumla
ACT 2600, Australia

His Excellency the Ambassador of Indonesia
287 Maclaren Street, Ottawa
Ontario, Canada K2P OL9

Averil Bones
Wildlife Campaigner
Humane Society International
61-2-9973 1728