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DAMS CAUSE EARTHQUAKES: DANGER FOR THE ORANGUTANS Easy to recognise: Several earthquakes desolated the west coast of Sumatra in the last 100 years. Source: USGS Earthquake Catalog. Full view


Palm-oil plantations are most often the reason for deforestation of valuable rainforests in Indonesia. On Sumatra, the Leuser ecosystem is particularly affected. Furthermore, another threat results from the planned infrastructural projects! Now, there is the knowledge that those projects may even provoke earthquakes.

Indonesia is a high-risk earthquake area. The amount of earthquakes in the last 100 years has increased significantly. The province Aceh on the island Sumatra is one of the earthquake-hotspots in Indonesia. There is a real danger that a planned dam in a sensitive area could collapse during an earthquake. The «Tampur-dam» is planned in the middle of the Leuser ecosystem. This well-known and extremely valuable area of rainforest and its habitants would be seriously damaged in such a scenario.

The research team of our Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme investigated the impact of a potential construction of a dam in the Leuser ecosystem. It is a fact that not only the described risk potential of earthquakes at this location is a problem, but also the construction itself could cause earthquakes. As the dam would be built on fragile ground, the enormous dammed masses of water could provoke earthquakes. The research now forms the basis to inform the project’s decision-makers and their environment.

Although law in Indonesia provides for the protection of the rainforest and its animals, huge palm-oil plantations and infrastructural projects in the rainforest threaten the rainforest again and again massively. This loss causes much suffer not only for the animals and plants, but also for the population who feel the impacts very directly. The Leuser ecosystem lies in the North of the Island Sumatra, in the province Aceh. This biggest contiguous area of rainforest in Southeast-Asia is the home of the last remaining 13’200 Sumatra Orangutans.

> Research in the SOCP