May 18, 2006
Jakarta (Indonesia), May 18, 2006 - Only days before a May 16-18 Beijing meeting to prepare the 2008 Olympiad in China, Friends of the Earth International calls on the Government of China and the International Olympic Committee to save Indonesian forests from being destroyed for the Beijing Olympics.
Friends of the Earth International is calling on the People's Republic of China and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to immediately abort plans to use 800,000 cubic meters of Indonesian Merbau timber for the construction of sports facilities for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.
A state-owned Chinese company plans to invest one billion US dollars in the construction of a timber processing plant and in the purchase of Merbau timber in the province of Papua in Indonesia.
Indonesian Forestry Minister Malem Sambat Kaban has already indicated his consent for this plan. The Indonesian Government, however, is well aware of the destructive impact of industrial logging in West Papua. In March 2005, the Indonesian President ordered a moratorium on most logging operations in West Papua, due to widespread theft, corruption and environmental damage.
"It is outrageous that China wants to construct its Olympic facilities from tropical timber from rainforests. Important areas of the largest remaining rainforest in Asia would be destroyed in order to manufacture floors for Olympic buildings," says Chalid Muhammad, the Director of WALHI/Friends of the Earth Indonesia.
"It is the International Olympic Committee's responsibility to stop these plans immediately. The destruction of humanity's last remaining natural forests is not in line with the Olympic spirit", he added.
"In fact, building Olympic sports facilities with tropical timber from old-growth forests would clearly be in breach of the Olympic Charter",says Chalid Muhammad, the Director of WALHI/Friends of the Earth Indonesia.
"The International Olympic Committee has to act now. Otherwise it would jeopardize its credibility and reputation", he said.
Chapter one of the Olympic Charter contains a clear comittment to environmental responsibility and sustainable development: "It is the role of the IOC to encourage and support a responsible concern for environmental issues, to promote sustainable development in sport and to require that the Olympic Games are held accordingly"(Olympic Charter, Chapter 1).
"The Olympic Movement throughout the world has to unite in an effort not to destroy this paradise for Olympic vanity. No sports venues should rely on tropical timber. For the last rainforests of the world, fair play is vital", says Chalid Muhammad, the Director of WALHI/Friends of the Earth Indonesia.
Instead of using 800,000 cubic meters of tropical Merbau timber, the Chinese authorities should follow the example of the Sydney Olympics Committee, which adopted a wood procurement policy for the construction of the Sydney Olympics venues that prioritised building designs that used little wood or used recycled wood and wood from plantations instead of wood from natural forests.
The Chinese intend to process some 800,000 cubic meters of merbau timber in the Indonesian province of Papua and to export the processed timber to China. Merbau trees (Intsia spp.) are found in lowland tropical rainforests in South East Asia, often in coastal areas bordering mangrove swamps, rivers and floodplains.
In many parts of South-East Asia, Merbau is already depleted or too rare for industrial exploitation. The only region where large volumes of the tree still grows is the island of New Guinea, with the Indonesian part (West Papua) being the prime source of the mostly illegal merbau timber extraction for the world market. There are no plantations of merbau trees; all merbau timber comes from natural forests.
The World Conservation Union (IUCN) classifies Merbau as a "vulnerable species", while the World Conservation Monitoring Center classifies Indonesia's Merbau population as threatened.
The current deforestation rate in Indonesia stands at a shocking 35,000 square kilometers a year, and up to 90 per cent of all timber felled in Indonesia is obtained illegally. Friends of the Earth Indonesia wants a moratorium on logging, to save the remaining Indonesian forest.
The ancient forests of West Papua and New Guinea are home to more than 500 indigenous peoples and are amongst the most biologically diverse forests on earth.
Rully Syumanda, forests campaigner, WALHI/Friends of the Earth Indonesia. Tel: +62 217941672 Mobile: +62 8131 9966 998 or e-mail : firstname.lastname@example.org