TEMPO.CO, Banda Aceh - The deforestation rate in Aceh Province may have reached 35 thousand hectares (ha) in the last three years and will decrease further in the next two years, the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) has predicted. Mining activity, construction of power plant and other infrastructures, as well as palm oil plantation will further contribute to the decrease in the next two years.
"The latest mining activities, such as in Central Aceh District, Beutong, and Nagan Raya, have had a detrimental impact on the rainforest," Walhi Director for Aceh Bureau Office, Muhammad Nur said in Banda Aceh, Wednesday.
He also expressed concerns on the construction of hydropower plants in Teunom, Aceh Jaya District; Tampur in Gayo Leues District, and Kluet in South Aceh District as they may further worsen the deforestation.
Indonesia's government and local authority should restrict the constructions of a hydropower plant in the province as it will endanger the last natural habitat on Earth where elephants, tigers, rhinoceroses, and the endemic Orangutans coexist in the wild, the environmental group suggested.
"Instead of building a hydropower plant, a geothermal-based power plant will be more sustainable as the province has abundant resources of the renewable energy, and it generates power as well," Nur explained.
Started in 2017 to 2022 period, a significant rate of deforestation forecast at 32 thousand ha in Aceh Province. Some 3.56 million ha of rainforests or the third-fifth natural ecosystem cover the total area of country's westernmost region, according to the Environment and Forestry Ministry's records.
Of the total figure of the province's forest, 1.79 million ha is a conservation forest; 145 thousand ha is a limited-productive forest; 551 ha land is a productive forest, and 15.3 thousand ha land is a conversion forest.
In an effort to halt the destruction of the rainforests, Walhi called on the local government to cancel the new mining permit that compromises the conservation effort, while imposing moratoriums to the new land clearing for palm-oil plantation.