The Jakarta Post
We wish to congratulate you on the recognition that the Leuser Ecosystem Zone (KEL) has received from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). We would like to help build on this international recognition by suggesting that you consider nominating KEL to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
We draw your attention to an article published on Nov. 15, 2013 in the international journal Science, in which KEL was identified as one of the world's foremost 'irreplaceable areas' (Le Saout et al. 2013, p. 803).
Interestingly, while only one of 10 criteria is required for nomination, KEL qualifies for World Heritage status on at least three criteria.
KEL has long been recognized as an irreplaceable ecosystem to the people of Aceh, providing approximately four million people with clean water for downstream irrigation, agriculture and food production.
KEL provides further environmental services to communities through mitigation of soil erosion, flooding, landslides and pest outbreaks.
Nationally and internationally, KEL plays a critical role in climate regulation and carbon storage. Aceh is rightly proud of these ecological services, which have been valued at more than US$400 million per year.
The tough stance taken on criminal activities in KEL (Act No.26/2007) to protect this globally significant area is highly respected in the international community.
As a World Heritage Site, KEL would remain part of the legal territory of Aceh but UNESCO considers it in the interests of the international community to preserve each site.
Therefore, World Heritage Site status would give KEL special recognition and further support from the international community. Economic analyses, such as those led by the United Nations Environmental Program (Wich et al. 2011), show that financial revenues are often higher when forests are conserved and Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) are adopted to generate long-term income.
Countries such as Costa Rica and Brazil have used such an approach and have boosted solid economic growth, while at the same time maintaining and even extending forest cover.
Aceh has the potential to do the same, and to become a shining example of how economic growth and proactive conservation can go hand in hand.
The richness of KEL's biodiversity is in its lowland forests, without which the Leuser Ecosystem will cease to function. Although part of KEL was included in a World Heritage Cluster site along with Kerinci Seblat and Bukit Barisan Selatan National Parks, the lowland forests were largely excluded. In our scientific opinion the Leuser Ecosystem as a whole deserves recognition to stand alone as a World Heritage Site.
We urge you, both as the Governor of this beautiful area and as a leader dedicated to the welfare of your people, to proceed in nominating KEL to receive the global recognition that it deserves.
William F. Laurance, et al.
Director Alliance of Leading Environmental Researchers and Thinkers (ALERT)
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