In a positive yet puzzling development, a spokesperson for the Malaysian government's federal land agency (FELDA) now denies plan for Malaysian government controlled oil palm development in the heart of the Amazon ever existed. Wan Zaleha Wan Embong, from FELDA's Public Relations Department, has been responding to our network's protest emails, disavowing the plans and stating "for your info the project never take (sic) place." The sudden change of plans is either an attempt to save face, the project has been canceled due to our protests and/or economic difficulties, or deceitful politics as the project is reorganized with private rather than government capital.
In July of 2008, Malaysia's own Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak (then Deputy) announced the project. He is widely reported to have said Felda Global Ventures Brazil Sdn Bhd would invest some RM25mil (US$7.12mil) for a 70% stake in the project near the Amazon River in Brazil. He is quoted when announcing Felda's foray in South America as saying "Felda wants to emulate Petronas as a global player… As a start, 20,000ha in Tefe will be opened for oil palm planting. After that, between 3,000ha and 5,000ha will be opened yearly." As recently as March 25, 2009, Brazilian ambassador to Malaysia, Sergio Arruda, reportedly stated the oil palm cultivation project would commence this year.
Something has changed over the last 8 weeks. It appears our protest by 3,082 people from 78 countries, in which 101,611 protest emails were sent, seems to have deeply embarrassed the Malaysian government. Immediately after our alert launched, references to plans by Malaysia‘s federal land agency to establish up to 100,000 hectares of oil palm plantations in the heart of Brazil's Amazon rainforest were systematically removed from FELDA's Internet servers. And Streamyx, the monopoly Internet service provider in Malaysia, stopped delivering emails referring to Malaysia's global rainforest for oil palm land grab.
Subsequently it has become known that Sime Darby, a Malaysian palm oil producer, plans to invest $800 million for 200,000 hectares (500,000 acres) of palm oil and rubber plantations in Liberia. FELDA already has large holdings at the expense of rainforests in Papua New Guinea, and oil palm biodiesel plant investments in the U.S. Please send/resend the updated protest email, asking for confirmation that FELDA will no longer consider developing oil palm in the Amazon or Papua New Guinea rainforests, and will stop private Malaysian industry from doing so as well.
Malaysia‘s Federal Land Development Authority (FELDA) will soon break ground on a joint venture with a Brazilian firm to establish 30,000-100,000 hectares (ha; 75,000 – 250,000 acres) of oil palm plantations in the heart of Brazil's Amazon rainforest. Similar oil palm development continues to devastate Asia-Pacific's rainforests, and increasingly the world, with some thirty square miles of carbon and biodiversity rich habitat being cleared a day to provide cooking oil and transport biodiesel. Oil palm agrofuel is heralded as a climate change mitigation measure, yet the initial rainforest clearance leads to much more carbon release than its production and use avoids.
Oil palm hastens regional and global ecosystem collapse. Should oil palm production — in toxic, biologically impoverished monoculture tree plantations — become widely established in the Brazilian Amazon (almost certainly, eventually to fuel cars in the United States) it would be a global ecological tragedy for biodiversity and climate, and a crime against local peoples and humanity. Oil palm plantations will endanger the Amazon's flora and fauna, cause environmental upheaval, and result in drastic cultural change. The initial logging will cause many rare species to go extinct, and toxic waste and runoff will threaten freshwater and marine ecosystems.
Malaysian tax dollars, along with subsidies from the World Bank and Asian Development Bank, are to be used to colonize Earth's largest rainforest, on the other side of the world. FELDA is a Malaysian government agency that is accountable to the Prime Minister's Department. Recently Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak (then Deputy) said Felda Global Ventures Brazil Sdn Bhd would invest some RM25mil (US$7.12mil) for a 70% stake in the project near the Amazon River in Brazil, planting between 3,000 ha and 5,000 ha every year. It is estimated that 2.3 million square kilometers of the Brazilian Amazon are suitable for growing oil palm. FELDA also has some 105,000 ha of oil palm plantation ventures at the expense of primary rainforests in Papua New Guinea and at least 45,000 ha in Indonesia.
Large scale biofuel production runs counter to urgently addressing climate change and threatens to cause more deforestation, hunger, human rights abuses, and degradation of soil and water. Global ecological sustainability and local well-being depend critically upon ending all industrial development in the world's remaining old forests -- including plantations, logging, mining and dams. The amount of primary and old growth forests that have been lost has already overshot the carrying capacity of Earth. Globally there are not enough old forests to maintain climatic and hydrological cycles, meet local forest dwellers' needs, and to maintain ecosystems and the biosphere in total. Local peoples must be assisted to fully protect, restore and benefit from intact, standing forests.
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