June 4, 2008
Indon couples told to plant trees before marrying
JAKARTA - PROSPECTIVE newlyweds in an Indonesian province are being given one more promise to honour: planting trees to help slow the rapid deterioration of the country's forests.
As Indonesia marks World Environment Day on Thursday, husbands-and-brides-to-be in Gorontalo, a rugged mountainous province on Sulawesi island, are being required to plant 10 seedlings supplied by the local government, said Mr Hasyim Alidrus, head of the religious affairs office.
It is part of a nationwide 're-greening' initiative launched by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono at the Bali Conference in Bali last November when million of trees were planted across the vast archipelago.
The program, critics say, is largely symbolic in a nation that is losing its forests at one of the fastest rates in the world due to illegal logging, mining, new oil palm plantations and slash-and-burn land clearing.
Conservationists say deforestation on Borneo island has claimed an area the size of some European countries and continues virtually unabated.
That has hardly dampened the enthusiasm of 27-year-old Khairul Baso and his fiancee, Andini, who received two 6-month-old teak trees along with palm, fruit and flower seedlings ahead of their wedding this weekend.
The couple is just one of nearly 900 that this year received trees from Gorontalo's religious affairs office, where they are required to register their marriage documents.
Couples are required to plant the trees to receive their legal paperwork, Alidrus said, although it was unclear how the rule would be enforced.
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