- The national park lies within the Leuser Ecosystem, home to one of Indonesia’s last great swaths of intact rainforest.
- The governors of Aceh and North Sumatra provinces have asked the central government for permission to develop parts of the national park.
- The environment ministry in Jakarta has rejected the plans, citing ecosystem concerns.
No roads shall pass through Mount Leuser National Park.
So said the Indonesian Ministry of Environment and Forestry in response to just such a proposal from the governor of North Sumatra province.
The national park is at the heart of the Leuser Ecosystem, one of Southeast Asia’s last great swaths of intact rainforest. It’s the only place in the world where rhinos, tigers, elephants and orangutans still coexist in the wild.
It’s also being eyed for development. In September, the ministry official in charge of national parks told Mongabay he had rejected a proposal from the government of Aceh province to rezone part of the Mount Leuser area for geothermal development. The park straddles the Aceh-North Sumatra border.
The proposed road would link Karo and Langkat districts. North Sumatra Governor Tengku Erry Nuradi said he intended to refile the request.
“Maybe there are special conditions that can be met, like if the road is put in a place that doesn’t disturb the animals’ habitat,” he told Mongabay.
The national park constitutes part of the Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra, which was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004, a status referenced by the environment ministry in its letter of rejection to the governor.
Kusnadi Oldani of Indonesia Green Union said that if President Joko Widodo’s administration was serious about protecting the park, it should reject all proposed development plans for it.
He further urged Governor Nuradi not to press the issue with Jakarta.
“This is a world heritage site,” Oldani said. “Indonesia has committed to manage it wisely.”
Banner image: A critically endangered Sumatran tiger. The forests of Leuser are one place they still live. Photo by Rhett A. Butler
Ayat S. Karokaro. “Lindungi Leuser, Kementerian LHK Tak Izinkan Buka Jalan, Pegiat Lingkungan: Tolak Semua Usulan Berpotensi Merusak.” Mongabay-Indonesia. 28 October 2016.