It was as I lay in a Singapore hospital bed — ablaze with dengue fever but shivering in a sweat that chilled my aching bones — that I began to understand why villagers in a remote part of Indonesia would trade their forest for decent health services.
Teluk Meranti is a tiny, 800-family fishing hamlet in Riau province of Sumatra island in Indonesia, where dengue is common but health services are poor and infrastructure is very basic.
With a monthly income of around $200, the average Teluk Meranti dweller doesn’t have much — but they do have customary rights to an enormous tract of rainforest in the lush Kampar Peninsula, home to rare flora and fauna.
It’s this forest that Asia Pacific Resources International Holdings Limited (APRIL), one of the biggest logging firms in Asia, wants to log and replant with fast-growing acacia trees. The firm has a government concession to operate in Kampar but needs cooperation from local villagers before work can begin.