Road Construction in Aceh Fragment Wildlife Habitat

[quote]By Chik Rini[/quote]

Road development connecting districts in Aceh within the last 10 years has (at least) disconnect six wildlife corridors in Leuser Ecosystem and Ulu Masen Ecosystem. These are two vitally important ecosystem in Sumatra, amounting to 3.3 million hectares. It is also the only place in the world where four endangered Sumatran mammals share habitat: Sumatran Tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae), Sumatran Elephant (Elephas maximus sumatranus), Sumatran Rhino (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis) and Sumatran Orangutan (Pongo abeii). This area is also home to about 4,500 flora and fauna species of Indo Malaya, some considered very rare and perhaps many more unidentified.

A number of non-governmental organizations and environmentalists including Walhi Aceh, Transparency International Indonesia (Aceh Program), WWF Indonesia (Aceh Program), Leuser International Foundation, Uno Itam, PeNA, Aceh NGO Forum and Aceh Human Rights NGO Coalition, Friday (27/7) lodged a protest over Aceh government plan to continue inter-district road construction until 2017.

Executive Director of the Leuser International Foundation (LIF), Agus Halim, said the construction of roads linking areas in the South West Coast – Central Highland – North and East Coast of Aceh are causing fragmentation of Leuser and Ulu Masen ecosystem. Disconnecting wildlife corridor in many locations and narrowing wildlife distribution areas.

“We documented wildlife corridor disconnected in many locations throughout the entire Aceh forest, areas that has been pockets of habitat for endangered species such as elephants, tigers, rhinos and orangutans” he said, in Aceh, on Friday.

LIF noted, the route that disconnected these wildlife corridor include Babahrot – Trangon, cutting through Southwest Aceh district and Gayo Lues district. Blangkejeren – Pinding – Lokop route, cutting through wildlife corridor in Leuser Ecosystem in Gayo Lues district. Muara Situlen – Gelombang route cutting through South East Aceh and Subulussalam fragmenting wildlife corridor between Gunung Leuser National Park and Singkil Swamp Wildlife sanctuary.

Then Pondok Baru – Samarkilang route in Bener Meriah district separating corridor in central and north Leuser, and Jeuram – Beutong Ateuh that cut through Central Aceh and Nagan Raya disconnecting wildlife corridor between Leuser and Ulu Masen. Followed by road between Lamno – Jantho – Keumala – Pameu, cutting through Greater Aceh, Aceh Jaya, Pidie and Pidie Jaya disconnecting northern wildlife corridor of Leuser and Ulu Masen.

“We believe many other corridors that connect these pockets of important wildlife habitat in Leuser and Ulu Masen are also destroyed to small scale unplanned and unlicensed road that is operating now.” He added

According to Agus, one of the evident of disrupted wildlife corridors is increased frequency of human-wildlife conflict in Aceh, especially conflict with elephants and tigers. Animal with extensive migratory range is cornered by their fragmented habitat. “Plus, large-scale land conversion of forest to cropland, large-scale plantation, mining and human settlement has worsen the problems.”

LIF has noted, elephant distribution route is cut-off in at least 13 locations. Several pockets of elephant habitat are no longer ideal due to severe fragmentation making the area too small to support elephant population. Agus draw example of Pinding – Lesten route, Pinding – Lokop route, Jeuram – Beutong Ateuh route and area of Manggamat and Gelombang.

The roads build across these high-conservation-value-forest also have severe side-effects, including opening access for illegal timber harvest and wildlife poaching.

Greenomics studies stated, construction of roads in the forest would result in deforestation rates ranged from 400 to 2400 hectares per kilo meters of roads. Leuser ecosystem is estimated to be fragmented into 12 smaller piece.

Aceh has the best forests in Sumatra. Even in Southeast Asia, this is the only forest area consisting of two blocks of intact forest ecosystem; Leuser and Ulu Masen ecosystem. Unfortunately, wildlife corridors of this unique forest ecosystem is facing the threat from road construction plans.

Executive Director of TM Walhi Aceh. Zulfikar request the government to review the plans to continue the construction of those roads. “Better to focus on improving the community through other sectors of the economy that is more environmentally sound,” said Zulfikar.

They warned the new Aceh government that the construction of these roads has the potential to violates various laws and regulations, including Law no.11/2006 concerning Law on Governing Aceh, Law 41/1999 on Forestry, Law 26/2007 on Spatial Planning juncto Government Regulation 26/2008, Law 32/2009 on Environmental Protection and Law 5/1990 on Conservation of Natural Resources and Ecosystem.

The protest for this road construction plan is due to its wide ecological impact. “This will open doors to forest destruction in Aceh, destroy wildlife corridors and increase human-wildlife conflict, destroy water catchment and disrupt hydrological cycle. These disaster will have huge economic consequences for Aceh people and its government.”

This road project is part of the continuing development Ladia Galaska road, which slice Leuser forest in Babahrot – Blangkejeren – Pinding – Pasir Putih route, Terangon – Tongra route, Pinding – Lokop – Peunaron route, Muara Situlen – Gelombang route, Simpang Tritit – New cottage – Samarkilang route. Trumon – Bulohseuma – Kuala Baru route, Kuala Tuha – Lamie route, Krueng Geukeuh – Bener Meriah border route, Simpang kebanyakan – North Aceh district boundary and the Ulu Masen Jantho – Lamno – Keumala – Pameu.[]

Mongabay Indonesia/Endoftheicons

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