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Published: Wednesday February 18, 2009 MYT 3:13:00 PM
JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP): Indonesia has lifted a yearlong moratorium on the use of peatland forests by palm oil companies, a senior Agriculture Ministry official said Wednesday, angering environmental groups who say the decision will contribute to global warming.
The government will start issuing permits - which have been withheld since December 2007 - immediately in areas that meet certain criteria on the depth of the peat, mineral quality and other issues, said Ahmad Manggabarani, without elaborating.
Indonesia is the third-highest emitter of carbon dioxide behind China and the United States, largely because much of the palm oil on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra is planted on carbon-rich peatland that must be drained first, releasing millions more tons of CO2 into the atmosphere each year.
Manggabarani said the decision to start reissuing permits was based on the desire to increase productivity of palm oil, which is used for cooking, cosmetics and as a cleaner-burning biofuel. The country is already the world's top producer of the commodity.
"We are disappointed," said Bustar Maitar, a Greenpeace Southeast Asia forest campaigner. "We had hoped after a year, the freeze would be permanent."
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