Itchy palm

Additional image:: 

Economy and ecology are once again pitted against each other. Indonesia recently drafted a plan to create the world's largest oil palm plantation in Borneo's Kalimantan region, a venture expected to create nearly 100,000 new jobs and accelerate economic growth in the poor nation. But environmentalists warn the plantations will destroy a section of rainforests as big as half of the Netherlands. Not only do 14 of Indonesia's 20 major rivers originate in the area, it is also one of the only two places on the planet where endangered orangutans, elephants and rhinos co-exist. Also, research by World Wide Fund for Nature (wwf) points at an extremely high rate of discovery of new species in the area: three per month.

Mubariq Ahmad, a wwf chief executive director, says people who depend on the area's massive water and other resources will be hit hard. Indonesia produces 36 per cent of the world's palm oil, used in food items like margarine and candies.