Indonesia to Plant 79 Million Trees In Single Day

Indonesia, which is losing its forests faster than any other country, hopes to plant 79 million trees in a single day ahead of a major U.N. climate change meeting later this year, a forestry ministry spokesman said Friday.

"We aim to get Indonesia greener as soon as we can and reduce forest degradation as much as possible," said Masyhud, who goes by a single name.

The trees, mostly eucalyptus and teak, will be planted across the world's fourth largest nation on Nov. 28, he said. The country's president will take part in the campaign, said Masyhud.

Masyud said saplings would be distributed in advance to more than 70,000 villages across the country, where community elders, government officials and villagers would plant them.

Environmental group Greenpeace said in May that Indonesia was losing its forests faster than any other country, with the equivalent of about 300 soccer pitches destroyed every hour. The forestry ministry did not contest the statement.

Around 1.8 million hectares (4.5 million acres) of forest were destroyed each year between 2000 and 2005, a rate of 2 percent annually or 51 square kilometers (20 square miles) a day, the group said.

In addition to massive commercial logging for timber, Indonesian forests are also being decimated by fires and land clearing for palm oil plantations.

Masyhud said that since 2003 the government has launched several conservation initiatives, including signing agreements with Japan and the European Union banning the import of illegally logged products.

Indonesia will host a major U.N. climate change meeting in December on the resort island of Bali. Environment ministers from 80 countries will meet there to begin talks on what actions the world must take after the first commitment period of the Kyoto protocol expires in 2012.