Road proposals proving heightened threat to Indonesian national park and tiger habitat
Opposition to the proposal from Kerinci district Jambi province to construct three new roads built through Kerinci Seblat National Park continues to gather momentum, with a highly respected biology and conservation specialist group publicly condemning the proposed construction.
The Association for Tropical Biology & Conservation, the world’s largest scientific organisation devoted to the study of tropical biology, has issued a statement outlining the intensely negative ecological impact of the proposed road routes, which pass through core habitat of the Critically Endangered Sumatran tiger and would also damage forest watershed functions vital to local communities. Read the statement here.
There has been continued concern and criticism over the handling of the proposal thus far, which was exacerbated late last week when representatives of the Jambi Provincial and Kerinci District Governments presented the proposed evacuation routes to a multi-stakeholder audience at the Department of Forestry.
Concern was raised by local and international NGOs and forestry officials working in the area over multiple examples of inaccurate statements in the description of the proposed routes and the reality on the ground. The lack of objective analysis regarding the need for evacuation routes or assessment of alternatives was also raised, but the meeting was abruptly drawn to close three hours ahead of schedule, without explanation, denying many key stakeholders the opportunity to respond to the presentations or clarify facts in the case.
The meeting concluded with an announcement from the Directorate of Forest Protection and Nature Conservation (Perlindungan Hutan dan Konservasi Alam) to establish an ‘Independent Team’ to analyse costs and benefits of the road proposals and to check conditions in the field.
The AKAR Network of local environmental NGOs including Fauna & Flora International and members of Forum HarimauKita, urge that priority is given to dramatically improving the quality of the three existing road routes out of Kerinci District, and maintaining those roads in good condition.
The coalition of protesters argue if this can be achieved, the financial outlay will be considerably lower, negative impacts associated with opening new roads will be avoided, and with a focus on road quality rather than quantity, well maintained routes will ensure reduced travel times.