JAKARTA — The Indonesian government has denied that deforestation for oil palm plantations and coal mines contributed to a recent deadly flood in southern Borneo. At least 21 people died and more than 256,000 were affected in what President Joko Widodo has called the worst flooding in South Kalimantan province in 50 years. Environmental activists say the massive loss of forest cover across the region exacerbated the disaster, compromising the natural function of the Barito River watershed to absorb the heavy rains that caused the river and its tributaries to overflow. But Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar has denounced this as “misinformation,” saying the high volume of rain — nine times the average amount from Jan. 9-13 — was to blame for the disaster. “There has been misinformation, especially [because] there’s a lot of invalid data deliberately pushed by some parties,” she wrote in Indonesian on Twitter on Jan. 20. “The cause of flooding in South Kalimantan [is] weather anomaly, and not about the size of forests in the Barito River’s watershed area in South Kalimantan.” Yet her ministry’s own data, among other references, clearly show rapid deforestation in the river’s watershed. In the past three decades, the 1.8-million-hectare (4.4-million-acre) water catchment area in South Kalimantan lost nearly two-thirds of its natural forest, or an area three times the size of London, according to the data. Other government sources show a similar trend. According to data from the Indonesian space agency, LAPAN, an area twice the size of…This article was originally published on Mongabay Läs mer

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