Indonesia is one of the countries with the highest rain forest loss rate in the whole world. In January 2003, the average deforestation was between 2.0 and 2.4 million hectares. Most of this deforestation is caused by palm oil plantation.
Palm oil comes from the fruit of the palm oil tree which is used for cooking and for biodiesel. There are two main species of palm oil tree, they are Elaeis Guineensis, from West Africa, and Elaeis Oleifera, from Central and South America. Indonesia is the biggest producer of palm oil in the world and most of the plantations in Indonesia are in Central Kalimantan and Sumatera.
When the forests are cut down for the palm oil plantation, it is not only bad for the environment, but also bad for biodiversity and animal habitats and also increases greenhouse gas in the atmosphere.
When the land is cleared for palm oil plantation, it creates poor air quality from burning the forest. It is especially a problem in Central Kalimantan which has a lot of peat land, because when peat land is cleared for palm oil plantations a lot of the stored carbon is released into the atmosphere.
Even though palm oil plantations are not good for the environment, they do provide oil for cooking and fuel which is needed by people all over the world. It also provides jobs and money for the people in Central Kalimantan where there is a lot of poverty and unemployment.
It is important for the people and the government to plan where to grow palm oil plantations so that the original forests are not destroyed and instead use the land that is degraded secondary forests or on grasslands instead of on peat forests and original forests.
WWF Australia website : http://www.wwf.org.au/ourwork/land/land-clearing-and-palm-oil/What is palm oil?
Source: WRM's bulletin Nº 66, January 2003.