Indonesian walks 700-km backwards to highlight deforestation

SRAGEN, Indonesia (Reuters) - An Indonesia man is walking backwards from his home in eastern Java to the capital Jakarta to raise awareness of deforestation in a country with one of the highest rates in the world.

The more than 700 km (435 miles) would be arduous enough under any circumstances, but Medi Bastoni is drawing attention to his campaign by doing it walking backwards.

Bastoni, 43, started on July 18 from his village on Mount Wilis, a 2,500-meter volcano in East Java province that has been affected by deforestation. He hopes to meet President Joko Widodo when he arrives in Jakarta later this month.

“I hope the government will start to care about the environment .... so the young generation will care about our environment,” the father of four told Reuters TV.

Indonesia has one of the highest rates of deforestation in the world, with more than 74 million hectares of rainforest - an area nearly twice the size of Japan - logged, burned or degraded in the last half century, according to Greenpeace.

Bastoni walks at least 20-30 km (12.4-18.6 miles) a day, carrying only snacks and water. A rear-view mirror attached to his backpack helps him to avoid obstacles.

As he passed through the town of Sragen in central Java, residents looked on with amazement.

“I think this is crazy and it’s something impossible, to walk such a long distance backwards,” said Ambyar, who uses one name.

“But, he has a noble mission ... and we support him. We just hope he will arrive in Jakarta,” he said.

Additional reporting by Heru Asprihanto; Editing by Darren Schuettler