Indonesia — Westerncountries applauded Wednesday the commitment of Brunei Darussalam, Malaysia andIndonesia to protect equatorial rain forests in Borneo. The United States andthe European Union congratulated the three countries for signing a declarationthat will conserve approximately 220,000 square kilometers of rain forest, oralmost one third of the island.
Ministers of the environment from the three countries signed on Monday in Balithe historic declaration to conserve and manage in a sustainable way the “Heartof Borneo”. It is hoped that the declaration will be able to save one ofthe world’s most biologically diverse areas from the threats of unsustainablelogging, forest fires and plantations.
“The United States support the Heart of Borneo initiative as it willsignificantly enhances U.S. international conservation objectives,” theU.S. Embassy in Jakarta said in a statement made available to The Jakarta Post.
The EU presidency welcomed the declaration, saying that it was an encouragingsignal to ensure sustainable management of natural forests. Deforestation inKalimantan, the Indonesian part of the island, has long posed great danger to the rich biodiversity of the island.
Since 1996, deforestation across Indonesia has increased to an average of 2million hectares per year and today only half of Kalimantan’s original forestcover remains. The island is home to 13 primate species, more than 350 birdspecies, 150 reptiles and amphibians and around 15,000 species of plant andcontinues to be the source of many new discoveries.
More than fifty new species were discovered last year alone. Speaking aftersigning the declaration, Indonesian Forestry Minister Malam Sambat Ka’ban saidthat the pledge would put the Heart of Borneo on the world stage as one of thelast great blocks of forests in the world. “This is an historic occasionwhich marks new collaboration between our three countries,” Kaban said.
Malaysian Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Dato Seri Azmi binKhalid said the declaration was more than symbolic as it represented acommitment between the three countries to conserve and manage the Heart ofBorneo in a sustainable manner. Indonesia, Brunei Darussalam and Malaysia sharecommon borders on the island.
Executive director of World Wildlife Fund Indonesia Mubariq Ahmad said that thejoint declaration should inspire other countries to do the same. “That thethree countries have come together with a shared vision… to protect vitalnatural resources and reduce poverty should be an inspiration to everyone,”he said.