Banda Aceh (ANTARA News) - Protection of the Leuser Ecosystem zone (KEL) is crucial, as it is a national strategic area, according to an Aceh non-governmental organization (NGO).

"The Leuser Ecosystem is a national strategic area due to KEL`s environmental functions. It is crucial to protect the area, as it provides water and clean air as well as mitigates disaster impacts, such as erosion, pest, and climate change," Farwiza Farhan, the chairman of HAkA Foundation, stated here, Wednesday.

However, Farhan expressed concern over some four million people of Aceh living in KEL.

The area has been encroached by land clearance for plantation, industry, and roads. Development activities endanger the survival of protected flora and fauna in Leuser, he added.

Based on HAkA`s latest data, 3,290 hectares of Leuser area were destroyed during the January-June 2018 period, a slight decrease from 3,780 hectares damaged during the same period in the previous year.

The Leuser Ecosystem covers a total of 2.6 million hectares of intact forest area located in Aceh and North Sumatra Province on Sumatra Island.

Of the 2.6 million hectares, some 2.25 million hectares are in Aceh Province covering 13 districts and cities, while the remaining 384 thousand hectares are in North Sumatra Province.

"We are aware that many people are unaware of KEL, particularly in Banda Aceh. Hence, we are encouraged to campaign for protection of the vast forest area in Aceh," he emphasized.

Aceh`s KEL is home to 8,500 plant species, 105 mammal species, and 382 bird species, he stated.

Moreover, the Leuser Ecosystem is a spectacular expanse of rare, intact rain forest that is the only place left on Earth where Sumatran tigers, orangutans, elephants, and rhinos live together in the wild.

Meanwhile, Acting Aceh Governor Nova Iriansyah once remarked that during this year, not a single infrastructure project was carried out in the Mount Leuser National Park (TNGL).

The Aceh Government is committed to protecting and preserving the Leuser forest, which is a priority in the environmental policy, he noted.

"In accordance with the Aceh land use plan, no infrastructure development is conducted inside the TNGL. There is no systematic effort by the Aceh Government to harm TNGL and KEL. Foreign teams and UNESCO are welcomed to look at it closely," the acting governor added.

Reporting by Muhammad Said, Fardah
Editing by Bustanuddin

Reporter: Antara
Editor: Andi Abdussalam
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