Activists in Indonesia and abroad staged a coordinated protest on March 1 to draw attention to a controversial hydroelectric project in Sumatra funded by China that threatens the world’s rarest great ape, the Tapanuli orangutan.
The activists protested out Chinese diplomatic missions and branches of state-owned Bank of China, which is funding the planned dam through loans, in cities including Jakarta, New York, Hong Kong, Manila and Johannesburg.
In Indonesia, where the $1.6 billion project is the subject of an ongoing lawsuit, activists from the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) and other NGOs called on BOC to rescind its loans, saying that allowing the project to proceed would devastate the Batang Toru ecosystem, the only known habitat of the Tapanuli orangutan (Pongo tapanuliensis).
Dwi Sawung, the chief campaigner for energy issues at Walhi, said BOC had acknowledged last May receiving an open letter from Walhi, which called on it to withdraw from the project, and said it would investigate on the matter.
“But there hasn’t been any news from them since then,” Dwi told Mongabay at the demonstration in Jakarta.
He said that prompted Walhi to stage the latest series of protests and send another open letter to BOC branches and Chinese embassies and consulates.
“Despite many attempts to convey our concerns since May 2018, we still have not received a meaningful response from Bank of China,” the new letter says. “If built, the dam will likely doom the newly discovered Tapanuli orangutan species to extinction. Less than 800 of them are left.”
Walhi also launched an online petition at Change.org to call BOC to stop funding the project.Sign the petition!