An online petition urging Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and the Aceh Governor to reject a plan that would open up much of Aceh's forests to commercial exploitation has surpassed one million signatures. The plan, known as Rencana Tata Ruang Wilayah (RTRW), has been hammered out behind closed doors and many of the specifics are unknown to the public, but activists say it will pave way for the destruction of hundreds of thousands of hectares of virgin forest. In a few weeks the petitions reached 1,300,000 signatures were from all over the world.
The petition's head mast at Avaaz page said, "The plan to kill orangutans," which is a reference to Aceh's unmatched biodiversity. The province's forests are home to rhinos, tigers and elephants as well as orangutans, all of which are endangered. Efforts to establish a new RTRW in Aceh have been in the works for years, with former Governor Irwandi Yusuf proposing a plan that would be geared more toward conservation than industry. The controversy surrounding it stems from Aceh officials redrawing the plan after Zaini Abdullah assumed the governorship in 2012, which to activists' ire has been conducted largely behind closed doors.
The petition's author, Rudi Putra, winner of the 2013 Future of Nature Award, called on the president to step in and prevent the Forestry Ministry from approving the plan. "Right now, in one of Indonesia's most pristine and untouched forests, a local governor wants to let mining and palm oil companies move in to decimate areas the size of a million football fields!" Rudi wrote on the Avaaz page. "The national Forestry Ministry looks like it might let him, unless the President steps in to reject this orangutan-killing plan."