by Staff Writers
Jakarta (AFP) June 8, 2011
Greenpeace on Wednesday accused Mattel, the US maker of Barbie dolls, of contributing to the wanton destruction of carbon-rich Indonesian forests and habitats of endangered species like Sumatran tigers.
The environmental group said packaging used in Barbie and Ken boxes contained timber products from Asia Pulp and Paper (APP), which it described as a "notorious" destroyer of Indonesia's dwindling natural forests.
"Barbie destroys natural forests and pushes rare species such as tigers to the brink of extinction," Greenpeace Indonesia forest campaigner Bustar Maitar said.
"Mattel, which makes Barbie, must stop wrapping the world's most famous toy in rainforest destruction."
He said APP was a "notorious rainforest destroyer which has been exposed many times for wrecking Indonesia's rainforests to make throw-away packaging".
"APP is bad news for Indonesia's forests. It treats Indonesia as nothing more than a vast disposable asset, grabbing rainforests that are vital to forest communities," Maitar said.
"Mattel and other toy companies like Disney have a responsibility to support clean, low carbon development. They should drop APP right now and instead support responsible Indonesian producers."
APP, a subsidiary of paper and palm oil giant Sinar Mas, said it was "shocked" by the allegations and denied that its activities posed any threat to endangered species or forests.
"I was quite shocked that they attacked us. We are proud to use recycled paper and we are trying to promote the use of recycled paper," APP managing director for sustainability Aida Greenbury said.
Indonesia is considered the world's third-biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, mainly through deforestation for the timber industry and to make way for coal mines and oil palm plantations.
In a letter to Greenpeace published on the group's website, Mattel says it "generally" works with paper suppliers that recommend products certified as sustainably harvested.
But Greenpeace executive director Phil Radford wrote in a blog that "Mattel's policy is so weak that even Ken could punch a hole in it".
"Sumatran tigers, elephants and orangutans are being pushed to the brink of extinction because Mattel simply isn't interested in the origins of Barbie's pink box," he wrote.
"For companies like Mattel, cute phrases aren't enough. They need strict rules to prevent rainforest destruction from contaminating their toys."
Greenpeace's campaign against Mattel follows similar action against firms like Walmart, Carrefour and Tesco in the wake of a report released last year titled "How Sinar Mas is Pulping the Planet".
Unilever, Kraft and Nestle have stopped sourcing palm oil from Sinar Mas affiliates, while Carrefour, Staples, Office Depot and Woolworths (Australia) had stopped buying or selling paper products connected to APP.
Several other companies are believed to be reviewing contracts with APP.
earlier related report
Many of the trucks parked near villages in troubled southern Casamance province, in broad open spaces where trees including hardwoods prized for making furniture have already been felled, have Gambian licence plates.
"All these vehicles that you see take forest tracks to transport the wood away, above all to Gambia," a local tells AFP in an area called Palm, near the border.
It is a lucrative racket that flourishes in the insecurity of a low-level insurgency led by the rebel Movement of Democratic Forces of Casamance (MFDC), which has been fighting for the province's independence since 1982.
Operations by the Senegalese army are also exacting a toll on the forest, as is drought, said Eli Jean Bernard Diatta, a teacher in a high school in the provincial capital Ziguinchor who has published a study on the problem.
"The forest is being attacked in an abusive fashion. The war and drought are the main factors," said Diatta.
"The war created a climate of insecurity. The economy of the region has deteriorated and people have fallen back on the forest," he said.
Locals work with foreigners in the illegal logging trade despite heavy fines, Diatta added, while several residents said many clandestine sawmills operate in the province, which has vast natural resources.
"Recently a Mauritanian non-governmental organisation ordered 10 pirogues (wooden boats). That means a minimum of 100 trees will be cut down," the teacher said.
He also blamed the degradation on "the military and the rebels, who burn the forest to carry out security operations."
The smuggling persists despite fines of four to five million CFA francs (more than 6,000-7,600 euros/8,700-11,000 dollars) per lorry "because it earns a lot", a regional water and forestry services official said.
"This trafficking takes place with the complicity of the population, armed bands and the Gambian authorities," a regional administration official said on condition of anonymity.
"A few days ago, three lorries loaded with tree trunks were impounded in this area. Their drivers got away," he said.
The traffickers often operate in areas of no-man's land because of the fighting, which has left a trail of mines that have killed 168 people since it started.
"The lorries move, at night, in areas that are not under control," the regional official said.
"The water and forestry service can't go there because of the insecurity, but the army and the (paramilitary) gendarmerie often carry out crackdowns on the traffickers."
An official in the service said rebel fighters hiding out in the forest were largely responsible for its abuse. "They believe that they are in conquered territory and that they can do what they like," he said.
But Diatta said some rebels were protecting the vegetation. "They know that if the forest disappears, it's the end of the rebellion," because they will have no rear bases in which to hide, he said.
"A species like teak is disappearing fast like the venne," another local hardwood tree, Diatta said. Loggers particularly go for trees that are highly valued for making furniture.
The dragging conflict in the Casamance, a strip of land separated from the rest of Senegal by tiny Gambia, has dragged on despite attempted ceasefires, causing tens of thousands of people to flee their homes.
With many despairing of ever returning, locals worry about the future of their land. "Our children risk never knowing the forest," one said.
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Progress too slow on saving tropical forests: report
Paris (AFP) June 7, 2011
All but seven percent of the world's tropical forests are "managed poorly or not at all" despite efforts to boost sustainability, according to a major report released Tuesday. Forces driving forest destruction across four continents - including rising food and fuel prices, and growing demand for timber - threaten to overwhelm future conservation efforts, warned the 420-page study by the Ja ... read more
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