JAKARTA (AP): Indonesia is losing its forests faster than any other country, with the equivalent of about 300 soccer pitches destroyed every hour, environmental group Greenpeace said Thursday.
The group said Guinness World Records had confirmed the country would enter its book next year as the "fastest forest destroyer in the world." Guinness could not be immediately reached for independent confirmation.
"It is a national shame for Indonesia to own this distinction in the record books," Southeast Asia Greenpeace forest campaigner Hapsoro said, holding up an official citation from Guinness. "This is tragic."
Around 1.8 million hectares (4.5 million acres) of forest were destroyed each year between 2000 and 2005, a rate of 2 percent annually or 51 square kilometers (20 square miles) a day, said Hapsoro, who like many Indonesians goes by a single name.
Indonesia's forestry ministry did not contest the figures, but said, "We have been doing our best to slow down the rate.""We are very concerned," said ministry spokesman Masyhud.
In addition to massive commercial logging for timber, Indonesian forests are also being decimated by fires and land clearing for palm oil plantations.
Masyhud said that since 2003 the government has launched several conservation initiatives, including signing agreements with Japan and the European Union banning the import of illegally logged products.
Greenpeace called on Indonesian to temporarily stop all logging to allow forest regrowth.