June 22, 2010 / 12:41 PM / 9 years ago

Indonesia's Kalimantan to clear forest for houses

JAKARTA, June 22 (Reuters) - Indonesia’s Kalimantan region has proposed converting 1.9 million hectares of forest, or about 12 times the size of London, mostly for housing, despite the country’s planned moratorium on forest clearance.

A forestry ministry spokesman said on Tuesday that the government would study the proposal from the West Kalimantan government, with any decision likely to be a long process that would require approval from parliament.

West Kalimantan province has “idle” land that is not forested, added forestry ministry spokesman Masyhud.

Indonesia plans to place a two-year moratorium on new concessions to clear natural forests and peatlands under a deal signed with Norway last month aimed at reducing greenhouse gases.

Indonesian green group Walhi said the proposal would be acceptable if it filled a need for housing, but it urged the central government to make sure the conversion would not be used for other purposes such as palm oil plantations or mining.

“If the conversion is aimed at housing, it is not a controversy because that is a basic need, but we worry if that is only a cover,” said Pius Ginting, a mining campaigner at Walhi.

Kalimantan, on Borneo island, has seen heavy deforestation and is a now significant producer of palm oil, rubber and coal. Plantation firms have protested against proposals to cut back on Indonesia’s high rate of deforestation. (Reporting by Telly Nathalia; Editing by Neil Chatterjee and Ron Popeski)

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