Indonesian walking 700km backwards to save forests

Mr Medi Bastoni began his arduous expedition on July 18 from his home on the slope of Mount Wilis, a dormant volcano in East Java province that has been affected by deforestation.
Mr Medi Bastoni began his arduous expedition on July 18 from his home on the slope of Mount Wilis, a dormant volcano in East Java province that has been affected by deforestation.PHOTO: AP

BEKASI (AP) - An Indonesian man is walking more than 700km backwards from his village in eastern Java to the country's capital to raise awareness about deforestation.

Mr Medi Bastoni began his arduous expedition on July 18 from his home on the slope of Mount Wilis, a dormant volcano in East Java province that has been affected by deforestation.

The 43-year-old is expected to arrive in the capital, Jakarta, on Friday (Aug 23). He hopes to meet President Joko Widodo, and ask him to re-plant trees on Mount Wilis and elsewhere.

"I'm doing this to raise people's awareness of deforestation," Mr Bastoni told The Associated Press on Thursday (Aug 22) when he reached Jakarta's satellite city of Bekasi, about 22km east of the capital.

"I need the president's support to help reforestation efforts, hand-in-hand with other communities."

Indonesia for many years has chopped down its rainforests faster than any other country, profiting paper and palm oil conglomerates while causing social and environmental problems. Rapid forest loss and greenhouse gas emissions have made Indonesia the fourth biggest contributor to global warming after China, the US and India.

This is not Mr Bastoni's first backward walk. The father of four completed a 73km walk last year from East Java's town of Tulungagung to the peak of Mount Wilis in a similar effort to raise awareness about deforestation.

Mr Bastoni has attached a rearview mirror to his backpack that helps him avoid bumping into objects along his way. He walks at least 20km to 30km a day and sleeps in mosques or police stations along the way. In many cities and villages, cheering supporters offered him meals, drinks or a place to stay overnight.

He failed his target of reaching the capital a day before Indonesia's Independence Day on Aug 17 due to a swollen leg that forced him to rest for a few days. Initially, he was scheduled to attend the ceremony at the presidential palace.

 

"I hope I can touch the heart of Pak Jokowi to start the re-green effort by giving me a tree," Mr Bastoni said, referring to a popular name of the president.