JAKARTA — Indigenous people in Indonesia’s easternmost Papua province are protesting against a company that’s preparing to raze their ancestral forest for a plantation megaproject plagued by allegations of irregularities and wrongdoing. Members of the Auyu tribe are demanding the government freeze the operations of PT Indo Asiana Lestari (IAL), whose 39,190-hectare (96,840-acre) concession forms one chunk of the larger Tanah Merah project that has been fought over by competing groups of investors over the past decade. If developed in full, the Tanah Merah project would result in the clearance of 280,000 hectares (692,000 acres) of the third-largest stretch of rainforest on the planet, to be replaced with several contiguous oil palm estates run by various companies — some of which are owned by unknown investors hiding behind anonymously held firms in the Middle East. Palm oil, used in everything from snack foods and cosmetics to biofuels, is one of Indonesia’s leading export commodities. But its production is associated with a range of problems, from climate change and wildfires to labor rights abuses and land grabbing. A map of the island of New Guinea, which is split between Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, and the location of Boven Digoel in it. Besides problems with corporate secrecy, the Tanah Merah project has also highlighted the often chaotic licensing processes underpinning the industry. Some of the permits for the project were signed by a politician who was serving out a prison sentence for corruption. Others were allegedly falsified, with a signature of…This article was originally published on Mongabay Läs mer

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