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 Indonesia failing to stop forest destruction: Greenpeace

07/04/2008 (AFP), Jakarta — Indonesia is failing to halt the destruction of its peatland forests despite promising to do so during last year's climate change conference in Bali, pressure group Greenpeace said Monday.

Greenpeace said its workers had witnessed two palm oil companies illegally clearing government-owned land on Sumatra island in March.

"Last month, a Greenpeace team revisited an area of Sumatra's Riau province where it had monitored palm oil expansion in 2007, to find that further large tracts of peatland forest had been destroyed inside (areas) which had not been granted permits," the group said.

Indonesia has one of the highest rates of deforestation in the world, driven by voracious demand for commodities and weak law enforcement.

Large swathes of peatland forest are being cleared to make way for the booming palm oil industry.

Emissions from deforestation, and in particular peatland -- which is made up of deep layers of semi-decomposed vegetation -- have made Indonesia the world's third-largest carbon emitter, behind the United States and China.

Greenpeace accused the government of sending out "mixed messages" on palm oil, saying forest destruction had been allowed to continue even though the agriculture minister had called for a halt to any new plantations on peatlands.

"We call on the government to give teeth to their Bali commitment to save the forests and tackle climate change by urgently putting in place measures to regulate the palm oil industry," said Greenpeace campaigner Hapsoro.

Agriculture ministry officials could not be reached for comment

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