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Published:September 13th, 2007 00:39 EST
Marine reserve seeks balance between biodiversity, sustainable development

Marine reserve seeks balance between biodiversity, sustainable development

By SOP newswire

Washington – The seas and coastline of Indonesia's East Kalimantan province, on the island of Borneo, are a biological wonder. A recent scientific survey found almost 475 species of marine life -- from giant manta rays and hawksbill turtles to pygmy seahorses and exotic sting-less jellyfish -- not to mention commercial-size populations of shrimp and tuna.

Protecting the remarkable biodiversity of this area is a challenge that can succeed only through partnerships, such as the one the U.S. energy corporation Chevron has undertaken through its five-year "Ridges to Reefs" project.

The project, centered in an area known as the Coral Triangle, focuses on environmental protection as well as marine research and sustainable development. The Coral Triangle is also where Chevron maintains significant oil, natural gas and geothermal production. (See related article.)

Climate change, clean energy and the environment are among the topics on the agenda of the first Major Economies Meeting on Energy Security and Climate Change, to be hosted by President Bush September 27-28 in Washington. (See related article.)

In East Kalimantan, the Chevron subsidiary Unocal has joined with the Indonesian government, local communities and several nongovernmental organizations -- notably the Nature Conservancy -- to establish the Derawan Islands Marine Biodiversity and Coastal Livelihoods Project. 

Project researchers in this marine reserve are studying the life cycles of manta rays and green giant sea turtles as well as the area's complex ecology. To rehabilitate coral reefs, they are testing artificial structures shaped like complex stars that can stimulate more rapid coral growth.

SUSTAINABLE LIVING

The Derawan Islands project, however, can only succeed by engaging and educating the people of more than 25 coastal villages, where average income is less than $5 a day and where green sea turtle eggs and shark fins for shark-fin soup can bring an economic bonanza.

Nevertheless, Chevron and the Nature Conservancy have made substantial progress through regular community meetings. Together, they have discussed ways of achieving sustainable employment and figuring out how this unique environment can provide long-term economic benefits through ecotourism and environmentally sound fishing practices. (See related article.)

"We don't pretend to have all the answers," says Robert Bearden, Chevron's director for Kalimantan operations. "But deliberate efforts to engage communities are vitally important and help ensure long-term success."

Chevron has been operating in Indonesia for more than 80 years. Through its subsidiary, Chevron Pacific Indonesia, it produces more than half of the nation's crude oil and manages more than 7,000 employees plus another 30,000 business-partner workers.

Chevron is also the world's largest producer of clean thermal energy. Its Darajat and Salak geothermal fields in West Java alone produce enough renewable energy for almost four million homes in Indonesia.

Darajat III, Chevron's newest geothermal plant, has been designated by the United Nations as a market-based Clean Development Mechanism designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

CHEVRON AND BIODIVERSITY

Chevron, one of the world's largest integrated energy companies, remains committed to environmental protection and biodiversity in all its worldwide operations.

On another part of Borneo, for example, Chevron supports the Balikpapan Orangutan Survival Foundation, located in the rainforest where staff members have treated and released more than 400 orangutans into the wild and worked to preserve their forest habitat.

In Papua New Guinea, Chevron Nivgini and the World Wildlife Fund have created a special foundation to protect fragile rainforest. One area is the Kikouri Basin, home to such extraordinary and rare wildlife as the world's only underground roosting bird, the longest lizard, and several of the world's largest butterflies and moths.

Chevron Nivgini has taken such steps as burying pipelines, eliminating spills, restricting road construction and reinjecting wastewater back into the ground to minimize the environmental impact of its exploration and drilling activities.

Pulitzer Prize winning writer and environmentalist Jared Diamond, author of Guns, Germs, and Steel and Collapse, commented after visiting Chevron’s facilities, "I found Papua New Guinea's most endangered bird and mammal species much more abundant here than outside the area leased by Chevron."

Chevron has targeted greenhouse gases in a methodical way by measuring its emissions in a standardized, transparent way that is subject to independent verification. (See related article.)

The company has then sought to reduce its emissions in two ways:  improving energy efficiency in its operations, and by cutting back the flaring, or burning of natural gas that is a by-product of oil drilling.

Chevron's Escravos natural gas plant in Nigeria, for instance, now processes 9 million cubic meters (300 million cubic feet) of gas per day that otherwise would be flared. The company is also working to reduce flaring of natural gas at sites in Angola and Kazakhstan.

Additional information is available in the publication USA Energy Needs, Clean Development and Climate Change Partnerships in Action on the State Department Web site.

For more information on U.S. policy, see Climate Change and Clean Energy.

(USINFO is produced by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)