PICTURE this: a government so arrogant, so hubris-bloated that it is prepared to wipe out a million hectares of virgin rainforest to plant rice, despite warnings from scientists that, apart from the grave ecological damage, less than 30 per cent of the area is even suitable for growing the staple crop.
Such a monumental act of stupidity and greed indeed happened in southern Central Kalimantan. The project was the brainchild of pride-filled dictator Suharto, desperate in the mid-1990s to reverse Indonesia's rice deficit that required imports and ready to go to any lengths suggested by cronies and rapacious family members to do it.
Not a single crop was reaped from what was known as the mega-rice project: at least none that would suffice for an evening meal. Plenty of valuable timber ended up as pure profit in the pockets of Jakarta's super-wealthy, however, as the rainforests that once soaked up carbon dioxide were stripped of their bounty, mostly for overseas sale.
Now supporters of the post-Suharto reformasi administration, including Australia, are scrambling to allocate money to redress the fiasco and get some climate-change runs on the board, but grave questions remain over how much of the damage can be undone.