Indonesian walks 800 kilometers backwards to save a forest

  • Business
  • Saturday, 24 Aug 2019

Medi Bastoni looks at mirror as he walks backwards in Bekasi, outskirt of Jakarta, Indonesia, Thursday, Aug, 22, 2019. - Reuters

Jakarta: An Indonesian man on Friday managed to complete the incredible feat of walking 800 kilometers in reverse, walking for more than month from his village in eastern Java to capital Jakarta, in order to seek the government's help in saving a forest.

Surrounded by curious onlookers and the volunteer group Indonesian Escorting Ambulance, which has helped him during parts of his journey, 43-year-old Medi Bastoni, a father of four, appeared indefatigable and happy with the attention he had received after completing his task.

Bastoni told EFE that he was in Jakarta to urge the government to pledge for reforestation, which has not generated enough interest, adding that he hoped people would be motivated to participate in the drive after his journey.

He walked the last few kilometers on Friday before meeting Sports and Youth Minister Imam Nahrawi, who was waiting for him after receiving his appeal seeking help in the reforestation of the forest on Mount Wills, situated in the East Java province.

In a small public ceremony outside the ministry, the leader handed Bastoni a pot with a sapling which the activist will take back to his village, calling it a symbol for the reforestation in Wills, an area near his village which is currently undergoing a reforestation program after suffering fires and illegal felling.

According to Bastoni, the lack of trees has led to water shortages during the dry season and affected the livelihoods of many residents dependent on agriculture and livestock farming.

Bastoni set off from his village Dono on Jul. 18 with a backpack which weighed eight kilos and a tiny sum of 300,00 rupiahs ($21).

Supported by his family and friends, he walked backwards on roads and highways for a staggering 780 kilometers, according to his own estimates.

The activist crossed four provinces and innumerable towns on the way, helped by a headpiece he had built with plastic pipes and fixed with a rear-view mirror which allowed him to move in reverse through busy highways and continuous traffic.

Bastoni was helped every day by people he met on the way, who offered him food, took photos with him and allowed him to sleep in mosques, police stations and houses, while he documented his experience on social media.

Fatigue and swelling in the legs forced the activist for rest for many days and he gave up his goal of reaching the capital before Aug. 17, the Indonesian independence day, when President Joko Widodo meets citizens.

However, Bastoni has not given up hope of meeting with the president personally to enlist his support for the reforestation program in Wills.

Deforestation of tropical forests has reduced in Indonesia in recent years, although it was the third country worldwide in terms of total tropical forest area lost in 2018 - 340,000 hectares (840,000 acres) - according to the World Resources Institute.

Nonprofit Greenpeace has warned that the drop in deforestation could also be linked to climate factors and the prices of palm oil - an industry which has allegedly indulged repeatedly in burng forests and peatlands - which are reach in carbon - to gain cultivable land. - Reuters

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