JAKARTA — “Birds might fall as they’re not strong since there’s no more trees standing.” This is how Jemris Nikolas characterizes the response of many in Sorong, a district in Indonesia’s easternmost region of Papua, to the deforestation unfolding in their area. Jemris is an environmental activist based in Papua, home to the last great expanse of rainforest in Southeast Asia. Indonesia’s commodities boom of recent decades — from palm oil to coal to pulpwood —razed much of the forests on the western islands of Sumatra and Borneo. Now, those same industries are moving into Papua, where authorities have issued licenses that could result in the clearing of an area the size of Sydney. That’s the finding from a new report by a coalition of 11 NGOs in Indonesia, which shows that most of the 1.1 million hectares (2.7 million acres) of natural forest that the government has authorized for clearing will be converted into oil palm plantations. These licenses are known as forest conversion permits, which are required by law to allow plantations and infrastructure projects to be established in forest areas. Dedy Sukmara, a researcher at the environmental NGO Auriga, a member of the coalition, said the issuance of these permits effectively legitimizes large-scale forest clearing. “According to the law, this is legal deforestation,” he said. And this could spell disaster for the region’s wildlife and plants. Papua’s forests are among the most biodiverse on Earth, home to at least 20,000 plant species, 602 birds, 125 mammals and…This article was originally published on Mongabay Läs mer

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