Chaidir Anwar Tanjung, Pekanbaru – Environmental activists in Riau province held a theatrical action in protest over the construction of a ring road in Duri City, Bengkalis regency. They said that the ring road would destroy the last remaining elephant habitat.
The action by the nature lovers was held in front of the Mandau sub-district head's office in During. The activists have taken to the streets on numerous occasions to oppose the ring road construction which will obliterate the Talang forests which is the last remaining habitat for elephants in the Balai Raja wildlife reserve.
During the theatrical action, scores of artists conveyed their opposition to the project through poetry accompanied by guitar music. Some of the participants wore body paint depicting the condition of elephants threatened with losing their habitat. Other depicted the trees that would be cut down to make way for the road.
The activists also depicted how an elephant named Dita in the Balai Raja nature reserve was crippled after her leg was severed by a noose set by people.
"We are holding this action to call on the Bengkalis Dinas PU Pemkab [regional government public works office] to first obtain an AMDAL [Environmental Impact Analysis] permit for the construction of the ring road in Duri City", said action coordinator Zulhusni from the Forest Animals Foundation (RSF).
Zulhusni explained that the planned ring road will cut into the remaining forests of Talang which are the last remaining habitat of wild elephants in Balai Raja.
"Only the Talang forest is left now, meanwhile 90 percent of the remaining area of the Balai Raja nature reserve has already been converted into palm oil plantations", said Zulhusni.
Bobi, an activist from the Nature Activists Association (Hipam), added that they are not against the construction of a ring road itself because it is need to reduce traffic congestion in the middle of the city.
"What we are demanding is that the Bengkalis Pemkab must be transparent about the development of the ring road. Don't let the construction destroy the remaining elephant habitat. The elephants must be saved because elephants also have the same right to live in nature", he asserted.
"We will also make a petition and send it to the Bengkalis Pemkab, the Riau Pemprov [provincial government], the KLHK [Environment Ministry] and the KPK [the Corruption Eradication Commission]. Don't destroy the Talang forest because it's the last remaining home to wild elephants in Duri", said Bobi.
Meanwhile the head of the Riau Natural Resources Conservation Office (BBKSDA), Suharyono, said he supports the activist's action and that the Riau BBKSDA opposes having the ring road cut through the Talang forest.
"If the planned construction of the ring road will cut through the elephant's habitat, of course it is of concern to us. Because the Talang forest is the last remaining forest there that exists as a habitat for elephants", said Suharyono. (cha/nvl)
[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Protes Pembangunan Jalan Lingkar di Riau, Aktivis Gelar Aksi Teatrikal".]