Planned road projects threaten Sumatran rhino habitat, experts say

BANDA ACEH, Indonesia — Conservationists are calling for a Sumatran rhino habitat at the northern tip of the Indonesian island to be fully protected from planned road-construction projects. Officials in the province of Aceh have allocated 2.4 trillion rupiah ($164 million) for the development of 12 roads across the province through 2022. Governor Nova Iriansyah says the roads will improve economic connectivity between the province’s eastern and southwestern coasts. They will include sections of the Ladia Galaska road that will serve as an overland route between two of the busiest international shipping routes in the region, namely the Indian Ocean and the Malacca Strait. But many of these planned road projects are expected to cut through the Leuser Ecosystem, a vast swath of tropical rainforest that remains the last place on Earth where critically endangered rhinos, tigers, orangutans and elephants co-exist in the wild. Conservationists say they are particularly concerned about the impacts that the road development will have on the population of the Sumatran rhino (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis) there. “Almost all the roads that cut through the Leuser Ecosystem are prone to landslides and flash floods,” said Muhammad Nur, director of the Aceh chapter of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi), the country’s biggest green NGO. He said data showed that road projects accounted for two-thirds of the total deforestation in Aceh province between 2013 and 2019, or more than 97,000 hectares (240,000 acres). “When forest is being destroyed, surely that will increase [the risk of] flooding and landslides…This article was originally published on Mongabay
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