World Wetlands Day -- Global Nature Fund 'Threatened Lake of the Year' 2008

31/01/2008

Press release of the Global Nature Fund (GNF)

Mahakam Wetland in Indonesia is Threatened Lake of the Year 2008

Excessive deforestation and devastating forest fires are destroying large areas of natural rain forests in Indonesia. The Global Nature Fund and the Conservation Foundation for Rare Aquatic Species of Indonesia (RASI) call for immediate stop to clear-cut logging. Climate protection, prevention of species extinction and the conservation of human and animal habitats are important factors to combat the destruction of large areas.

Radolfzell, 31.01.2008: The international environmental foundation Global Nature Fund (GNF) has announced the Indonesian Mahakam Wetland as „Threatened Lake of the Year 2008“. On the occasion of the World Wetlands Day on February 2nd, GNF refers to the disastrous loggings and forest fires in the South of Kalimantan (Borneo). Large oil palm monocultures and mining companies affect the basis of life of the local people and habitats of highly threatened species such as Irrawaddy dolphin and orang-utan.

The Middle Mahakam area covering a surface of 8,100 square kilometres is one of the largest wetlands in Kalimantan. According to Dr. Danielle Kreb, scientific staff of RASI, 90% of the original swamp and peat bog forests were irrecoverably destroyed during the large forest fires in 2008 and through large legal and illegal forest land conversion.

The Ministry of Forests has refused all efforts of nature conservancy organisations to restore and reforest destroyed woodlands in Kalimantan stating that enough is being done in Kalimantan. RASI and other local organisations are not able to validate this argument.

Recently, the Agency for Environment and Mining decided that the granting of concession will be handled more restrictively. However regarding the increasing demand for palm oil on the world market, it is very questionable if these positive intentions will be complied. Malaysia and Indonesia are the most important countries of cultivation of oil palms, delivering over 80% of the world production. In 2007, 37.4 million tons palm oil were produced worldwide, finding its way to our food, our cosmetics and the tanks of our cars. Apart from the authorised areas, huge forest areas are being transformed in industrial monocultures through corruption and illegal clearing.

RASI and other NGOs have experienced that the local government doesn’t recognise the urgent necessity of reforestation in this sensitive region in the Mahakam wetland. Nominating it „Threatened Lake of the Year 2008“, the immediate need for action to preserve the unique biodiversity and basis of livelihoods of the inhabitants of the region can be underlined. Indonesia has to be persuaded to use its valuable natural resources in a sustainable way in future. To this end, the industrialised countries have to reconsider their policy of subsidies for bio-fuels.

Background:

The so-called Middle Mahakam Lakes and Wetland (MMLW) with an area of 8,100 square kilometres is one of the largest wetlands in Kalimantan, the Indonesian southern part of Borneo. There are three larger lakes: Jempang, Semayang and Melintang as well as 30 smaller lakes and widespread peat bogs and fens. The whole region is an important drinking water reserve, shows a very high richness in fish and has important functions of transportation.

The region is a very important breeding and resting area for 90 species of waterfowl, including important breeding populations of different herons and the Lesser Adjutant. 298 bird species were counted in the region, 70 of which are protected and five of which are endemic in Kalimantan.

RASI is a partner organisation in the international Living Lakes Network, which is coordinated by GNF. The Mahakam wetlands are member in this network since 2000. A key activity of RASI is the protection of the Irrawaddy Dolphin. The population has declined over the recent years because of increasing sedimentation, shipping traffic and harmful methods of fishing and is now critically endangered.

Since 2004, GNF nominates the „Threatened Lake of the Year“, announced on the occasion of the World Wetlands Day, starting with the Lake Chapala in Mexico. The African Lake Victoria followed in 2005, the Dead Sea in the Middle East in 2006 and last year the Pantanal wetland in South America was nominated.

The Living Lakes network is supported by Unilever, Deutsche Lufthansa, T-Mobile, Daimler, SIKA, Ziemann and Osram. At present, 45 partner lakes belong to this network.

Further Information:

Global Nature Fund (GNF)
Udo Gattenlöhner, Executive Director
Fritz-Reichle-Ring 4
78315 Radolfzell, Germany
E-Mail: gattenloehner@globalnature.org
Website: www.globalnature.org

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