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Plea over Indonesia palm oil plan

11 July 07 12:53 GMT
By Lucy Williamson
BBC News, Jakarta

A coalition of environmental groups in Indonesia has called on the United Nations to intervene in a palm oil project being planned in Borneo.

The project will allocate up to 1.8 million hectares (4.4 million acres) of land for palm oil plantations.

The group fears the project will cause irreparable harm to indigenous people's territories and cultures.

The report is due to be presented to the UN's Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination next month.

It says existing oil palm plantations in other parts of the country show there is little regard for indigenous people's rights, and that the extensive land clearing necessary for plantations destroys traditional eco-systems.

This, the report says, reflects a serious, massive and persistent pattern of racial discrimination in the country.

The groups behind the research are calling on the UN to recommend that Indonesia stops the project until indigenous rights are guaranteed.

Indonesia is looking to expand the amount of plantation land available as part of its plan to become the world's number one palm oil producer.

The government says palm oil is an important part of building the country's economy, but environmentalists say not enough care is being taken to protect forests and indigenous communities.

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