More than a million people worldwide have joined online calls for President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to block the Aceh administration’s plan to open protected forests for commercial exploitation.
Rudi Putra, an Acehnese activist who won the 2013 Future for Nature Award, initiated an online petition on Avaaz.org on May 7, demanding the President step in to the plan. As of Saturday evening, the number of people who signed the petition, which is directed at the President, Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan and Aceh Governor Zaini Abdullah, had reached 1.2 million.
The petition was begun after a group of local environmental activists from Aceh signed an online petition on Change.org Indonesia against the draft spatial planning bylaw proposed by the Aceh administration, which put the province’s 1.2 million protected forests, home to numerous endangered species, at risk. More than 35,000 people have signed the petition.
“I live and work in the last place on Earth where endangered orangutans, rhinos, elephants and tigers still roam together, but it’ll be bulldozed to bits unless our President hears our call and steps in to save this unique habitat,” Rudi said on Avaaz.org, a global web movement that was launched in 2007.
Despite months of continuous protests, the Forestry Ministry is still on the way to approve the bylaw to convert protected forests into non-forest zones.
Data from the Coalition of Aceh Rainforest Movements said that the new spatial planning rules would allow the conversion of around 1.2 million hectares of Aceh’s existing 3.78 million hectares of protected forests into non-forest areas, production forests as well as roads.
However, the Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan has denied the accusation saying he has only allowed a conversion of 80,000 hectares of forests, from the initial proposal of 150,000 hectares, solely to improve the province’s infrastructure and boost its economy. He also said that the local administration had more authority to protect its forest than the central government, due to regional autonomy.
Deddy Ratih of Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) said the petition that had grabbed the attention of global communities showed the ministry should take the public’s concern and aspirations into account before deciding to go ahead.
“The ministry should clearly explain the purpose of the forest conversion and involve the public in the decision,” Deddy said.
“We are not only talking about the conversion, but also the potential damage should they go on with the plan to construct a road network throughout Aceh’s protected forests.”
Deddy regretted that the ministry still did not hear the public’s concern, even after the President decided to extend the forest moratorium, which prohibits issuance of new exploitation permits for primary forests and peatlands in conservation forests, protected forests and production forests.
“Especially with the fact that the president extended the forest moratorium, the ministry should have had more awareness to protect the forest,” he said.
Change.org Indonesia co-founder Usman Hamid said that millions of support for Rudi’s petition shows the international community’s solidarity for the local online movement to demand that Governor Zaini drop the controversial bylaw.
“The government should be open-minded and listen to public aspiration against the plan to convert Aceh’s protected forest for business purposes that will damage the earth and put Sumatran endangered species at risk,” Usman said.
Ian Bassin, campaign director at Avaaz, said that President Yudhoyono had to make a choice: leaving an important legacy to protect Indonesia’s natural resources or tainting his green track record by allowing the Aceh government to go on with its plan.
SIBOLANGIT, Indonesia – A baby Sumatran orangutan swings playfully on a branch at an Indonesian rescue center, a far cry from the terror he endured when his pristine rainforest home was razed to the ground.
Now alarm is growing at a plan activists say will open up new swathes of virgin forest on Sumatra island for commercial exploitation and lay roads through a vital ecosystem, increasing the risk to many endangered species.
The plan, which Aceh authorities say aims to open up a small amount of forest for communities to develop, is set to be approved by Jakarta despite its moves towards extending a national moratorium on new logging permits.
Green groups say such policies illustrate how the ban can be circumvented to open up new areas for deforestation, threatening to boost Indonesia’s already high emissions of carbon dioxide.
“This plan is a huge threat to species living in the forest, especially orangutans, tigers and elephants that live in the lowland forests that will likely be cleared first,” Ian Singleton of the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme told AFP.
Environmentalists warn that some one million hectares (2.5 million acres) — around the size of Cyprus — could be opened up in Aceh province for exploitation by mining, palm oil and paper companies. Officials dispute that figure.
There are particular fears about part of the project which would lay roads through the Leuser ecosystem, an area of stunning beauty where peat swamp and dense forest surround waterfalls and mountains poking through clouds.
The area, mostly in Aceh, is home to around 5,800 of the remaining 6,600 critically endangered Sumatran orangutans as well as elephants, bears and snakes including King Cobras.
Singleton warns that cases like that of the baby ape, rescued from Leuser, would rise dramatically if the road project goes ahead, as orangutan populations need long, uninterrupted stretches of forest to survive.
Named Gokong Puntung after the Chinese monkey god, the young ape had been living in an area where several companies cleared the land despite the tough protection it was supposed to have been afforded.
The primate was left stranded and clinging to his mother in a lone tree with no others to swing to. His mother was beaten by a group of passing men, and the baby was sold to a plantation worker for $10.
He was rescued in February and taken to the centre run by Singleton’s group across the Aceh border in Sibolangit district, North Sumatra province.
“Genetic experts say you need 250 to 500 orangutans minimum to have a population that’s viable in the long term without too many bad inbreeding effects,” said Singleton.
“We’ve only got about six of those populations left, and every time you put a road through the middle of one, you effectively cut it in half.”
Aceh forestry department planning chief Saminuddin B. Tou insists the roads will help link remote communities to the outside world — although activists say there are few buildings in the area and the network mainly helps big companies with access.
A murky web
Jakarta has signaled it will sign off on Aceh’s plan in the coming weeks, even as it is expected to extend the moratorium on new logging permits which expires on May 20 and has been in force for two years.
There is also strong support in the Aceh parliament which has the final say, and officials say they hope it will pass soon.
Although it seems to fly in the face of the national moratorium, the project is possible because it hinges on Aceh’s decision to overturn its own deforestation ban which was introduced at the local level six years ago.
The ban, stronger than the national measure, was brought in by the previous local administration — but it will be scrapped under the plan.
Environmentalists say it is one of the more glaring examples of how officials are using a murky web of local laws and technical explanation to push through new deforestation in defiance of the national moratorium.
“Companies and local governments have found all sorts of ways to get around the ban,” Friends of the Earth forest campaigner Zenzi Suhadi said.
However, the head of the Aceh forestry department, Husaini Syamaun, said in a statement that the plan “was not aimed at the development of mines and plantations” and did not break any laws.
The administration insists it will only free up around 200,000 hectares of new forest for exploitation.
But in reality a much larger area will be opened up, activists say.
Prior to the local ban, many mining and palm oil companies were granted concessions to chop down virgin rainforest in Aceh, but they had to freeze their activities when the province’s moratorium came in.
Officials argue that the plan will simply “reactivate” these areas of forest that had been open for logging in the past, so do not include them in their calculations.
Tou also insisted most of the project was an “administrative change” as a lot of forest had in reality been cleared by local communities already. “It’s not still virgin forest, it’s already been converted by the people,” he said.
TEMPO.CO, Jakarta-A new plan that would open up much of Aceh’s forests to commercial exploitation has been clouded by misinformation.
Officials place the blame with irresponsible NGOs, said to have spread false figures in the media.
However, civil society elements tell a different story. They claim it is the authorities who have been misleading the public, and that Aceh officials have designed the plan in secret, without a proper public consultation.
Moreover, environmental experts, activists and academics say that despite their best efforts, they have been unable to obtain basic data and documents associated with the plan. They tell of state agencies sending them in circles, withholding crucial information about what is in store for the province.
Their list of gripes also includes officials’ blatant disregard for procedure as they push the plan through Jakarta. Activists have assailed the legality of the plan as it awaits the signature of Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan, who announced in March that it was “almost final.”
Officials have promoted the plan as a vehicle to bring development to the people, but its opponents say it will actually undermine the livelihoods of the majority of the Acehnese.
Graham Usher, a landscape protection specialist with the Sumatra Orangutan Conservation Program, expounded on that point in a March 11 webinar, which was based on information obtained largely through unofficial means. In an interview with Tempo, he called the plan a “recipe for disaster.”
“If you really understand the geophysical reality of Aceh, why would you make the spatial plan they have?” he said. “It just doesn’t make environmental sense.”
Residents of Pidie, the rice bowl of Aceh, would suffer disruption to crucial water supplies, Usher said in the webinar. In Tamiang, where people still live in camps as a result of the massive flooding of 2006, reactivating logging concessions would exacerbate the risk of further disasters. The list goes on.
“We would love the opportunity to make a presentation to them about this,” he told Tempo.
“Where is the debate? Where is the rigorous peer review of what they’re doing? That’s all we’re asking for.”
The plan, known as Rencana Tata Ruang Wilayah (RTRW), has been in the works for years. In 2009, Aceh governor Irwandi Yusuf’s administration submitted to Jakarta a plan that would have increased Aceh’s protected forest area. The Public Works Ministry gave it the green light, and it went to the Forestry Ministry for approval.
In April 2012, however, Irwandi lost the race for governor to Zaini Abdullah. Soon rumors of a new draft began to circulate. The bombshell came in January, when Teuku Anwar, chairman of the Aceh parliament’s spatial planning committee, told the Sydney Morning Herald that the new government intended to “reduce Aceh’s total forest cover from about 68 percent of the province’s land mass to 45 percent.”
After that, news reports began naming 1.2 million hectares as the amount to be cleared. The Jakarta Post reported that the plan would “convert around 1.2 million hectares of forests into a limited forest production zone by converting it into plantation and mining areas and other purposes.”
That was wrong, said Irfan, a special adviser to Zaini. He attributed the confusion to a “black campaign” led by NGOs with an agenda.
Irfan said the plan would merely reclassify a net 89,000 ha as nonforest area. Some villages were in areas improperly marked as forest area, blocking them from state funds. In sum, the plan would only reduce the province’s “total forest area” from 61.4 percent to 60.5 percent.
“I think [troublesome NGOs] don’t know exactly what is the plan,” he told Tempo.
Usher said Irfan was simply presenting the situation from a different angle. He was talking, Usher said, as if old forestry design plans in which there are logging concessions that have been inactive for more than a decade were still valid.
“According to his mindset, those logging concessions still exist and they’re not changing anything by including them in the new spatial plan,” Usher said.
“Under Irwandi’s plan, the idea was not to have any of these forests available for logging. That’s our point of reference. Because people who have been doing environmental sensitivity analysis in Aceh, such as myself, feel there’s no area that can be logged without serious damage.”
“Why designate an area for logging if you don’t intend to log it?” he added.
Yakob Ishademy, who headed Irwandi’s Aceh Green team tasked with developing a conservation-based policy framework, said there had been no public consultation since Zaini took office.
“The problem is, the process should be open,” Yakob told Tempo. “That is mandated by the national law on spatial planning. Consultation of stakeholders, consultation of the public, consultation of the community.”
Isma Efendi, a spokesman for the Coalition of People Concerned for Aceh’s Forests (KPHA), said that while Irwandi was far from perfect, at least his regime was more transparent.
“At that time, we felt okay about the plan,” he told Tempo. “At least in those days, there was involvement.” Now, he said, communities and NGOs had been excluded. “The government hasn’t done its job to make sure people know what they’re planning,” he said.
Others feel the same way. Asnawi Zainun, a spokesman for the mukim of Aceh Besar — mukim are indigenous leaders legally entitled to involvement in spatial planning — told a press conference on April 2 that they had been neglected and that they rejected the plan. NGOs from Aceh Tamiang have released a similar statement.
Irfan said the Aceh parliament already held a Rapat Dengar Pendapat Umum, or public hearing, in which NGOs were invited to weigh in, although he couldn’t remember when it was, just that it was “a long time ago.”
The government only invited some NGOs to meetings like that, Efendi said. The ones known to protest, such as Walhi, were generally not included. Yakob said the only public hearings he knew about had either been held during Irwandi’s regime — before the new draft came into play — or had been limited to certain groups.
Yakob added that while he was on Aceh Green they held many stakeholder consultations, spent countless hours discussing people’s complaints with them and published data sets.
Joshua Holst, who lived in Aceh recently as part of his doctorate research, said that while there was certainly participation, it wasn’t always substantive.
“Groups that will be problematic are left out. … Participation certainly has an impact, but it can also be about getting people on board with a plan that has been set already,” he wrote in an email.
Holst said agencies from which he requested ostensibly public data on Aceh’s forest cover only passed him around and claimed they didn’t have it.
“Many of my friends in Aceh indicated that it would be impossible to get GIS data, and to their point I certainly didn’t have any success,” he wrote.
A former official who has worked with KPHA said she knew several activists who had written to Aceh’s Regional Development Planning Board (Bappeda) for data related to the spatial plan, but had never received a response. Efendi too has had little luck. Oftentimes, he was offered only partial information or sent to another agency, he said.
“That should not happen,” Yakob said.
At the end of the day, the former official said, if you overlay everything — the pulp and paper, palm oil, mining and logging concessions treated as valid under the plan, the controversial proposed road network legitimized by it, the forest area changes it proposes, as well as the possible revocation of two logging moratorium now in effect — the RTRW paves the way, directly or indirectly, for nearly 2 million hectares of destruction.
“That’s why I say they are smart,” she said. “Because they don’t make it obvious.”
Banda Aceh. The Banda Aceh Administrative Court on Friday ruled in favor of a palm oil company in its lawsuit against the Aceh governor’s revocation of its permit to clear and operate on a 1,605-hectare land in Rawa Tripa, a lush forest and peatland region in the province’s Nagan Raya district.
Presiding Judge Yusri Arbi said that Aceh Governor Zainal Abdullah’s decision in September 2012 to revoke the permit for plantation firm Kallista Alam, following an order from the Medan High Court, was not legally binding because the court decision was being challenged in the Supreme Court.
Kallista Alam obtained the permit to open the plantation from then Governor Irwandi Yusuf in August 2011. But the governor’s decision was met with protests by environmental activists who said that the area was the habitat of Sumatran orangutans, which are critically endangered, and other rare animals.
The Aceh chapter of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) dragged the governor to the Aceh state administrative court but the court rejected Walhi’s suit on April 3, 2012. Walhi then appealed the ruling to the Medan High Court. On Aug. 30, 2012, the Medan High Court ordered the governor, now Zainal Abdullah, who was elected in April 2012 , to pull the permit.
The Ministry of Environment and the Attorney General’s Office later filed a case against Kallista Alam for crimes conducted in Rawa Tripa.
Kallista Alam, however, as an affected party, filed an appeal against the Medan court decision with the Supreme Court. At the same time, it filed a lawsuit with the Banda Aceh Administrative Court contesting the revocation of the permit.
The head of the legal bureau for the Aceh government, Edrian, said the government would file an appeal against this latest verdict with the Medan High Court.
“The Aceh government’s stance is clearly to file an appeal because the governor’s decision to revoke the business permit of Kalista Alam was to follow the decision of Medan High Administrative Court,” he told Jakarta Globe on Friday.
“The panel [of judges] should consider the environmental impact created by Kallista and the impact to the residents around Rawa Tripa before deciding to grant their lawsuit. Moreover, Rawa Tripa was once under international spotlight concerning forest burning when clearing the land.”
Edrian claimed that based on investigation of the Aceh government, Kallista Alam’s initial operations had damaged the environment and led to conflicts with residents.
Walhi Aceh director T.M. Zulfikar said the verdict was a set back in the efforts to conserve the peatland and protect the orangutans in Rawa Tripa.
“Walhi Aceh will also file an appeal to the Medan High Administrative Court,” Zulfikar said.
He said that Kallista Alam should not have been able to contest the revocation as the Aceh government had full authority to issue or revoke business permits as part of its extended authority as a special region.
“We hope the Supreme Court will issue a verdict as soon as possible on the appeal filed by Kallista [Alam] so the problem won’t drag on,” he added.
The latest study from the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Indonesia found that the local administration in Aceh is the worst performer when it comes to protecting the country’s remaining forests.
Of the country’s top 10 provinces with the largest forest area Aceh scored the lowest on the UNDP’s forest government index.
The index measures the performance of each local administration in its spatial planning, forest regulation and protection, and its participation on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+). Under the REDD+ scheme, Norway allocated up to US$1 billion over seven or eight years to finance Indonesia’s emission reduction programs.
Recently, the provincial government in Aceh proposed a new spatial planning bylaw that would allow for the conversion of protected forests into non-forest zones.
The Coalition of Aceh Rainforest Movements claimed that the bylaw would change the status of around 1.2 million hectares of Aceh’s existing 3.78 million hectares of protected forest into non-forest areas. The converted land could be used for palm oil plantations and logging concessions. The Forestry Ministry has defended the move saying that Aceh would only convert 119,000 hectares of forest.
The UNDP survey, conducted last June shows that South Sumatra, Riau and newly-established West Papua also got low scores for their forest management.
The survey put West and Central Kalimantan at the top of the list. “These provinces are relatively good, although their scores are still low,” Abdul Wahib Situmorang, a project manager of UNDP Indonesia, said in Jakarta on Monday.
He said that none of the 10 provinces surveyed had achieved the ideal score of 3.5 out of a maximum 5 points.
The UNDP found that most of the provinces were consistently unable to protect their forests from illegal logging due to weak law enforcement and the high cost of getting forest concession permits. “Because local administrations charge a high price for concession permits, some companies decide to engage in illegal logging,” Abdul said.
Last year, the country’s law enforcement agencies only solved six of 128 forest crime cases.
Aside from improving transparency, Abdul suggested that local administrations give a greater role for civil society organizations (CSOs) and indigenous communities in the planning stage of forest protection action. “We must ensure that the public can participate in spatial forest planning. The administrations are obliged to provide capacity building for citizen involvement in spatial planning,” Abdul said.
Marthe Hotvedt, Forest and Climate Counselor of the Royal Norwegian Embassy, said that Indonesia should extend the moratorium on forest clearance, which will expire on May 20, considering its key role in protecting the country’s
“The moratorium has been an important initiative for improving management of forest resources by ‘pausing’ business-as-usual patterns in order to give more time to establishing adequate regulation and the proper institutions for efficient control and enforcement,” she said.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is considering extending the moratorium, which was issued after Indonesia and Norway agreed the REDD+ scheme.
- 1.6 Million Hectares of Protected Forest in Aceh Could be Lost (genascihk.com)
Operation Aceh – Wildlife Asia’s mission to save critical rainforest facing imminent threat of destruction
After conservationists seemingly won a small victory in 2012 to protect the Tripa peat forest in Aceh, a new, far more serious threat to Indonesia’s forests and wildlife has emerged.
The Indonesian Government appears poised to approve a proposal to free up 1.2 million hectares of protected virgin rainforest on Sumatra island for commercial exploitation.
Conversion of this primary rainforest could ultimately mean extinction for the last remaining populations of Sumatran orangutan, Sumatran rhino and elephant. The world renowned Leuser ecosystem is the only remaining forest to contain all of these species along with tigers, sunbears, gibbons, tapirs and leopards. It symbolises the enormous biodiversity teetering on a knife edge in Indonesia.
In a frightening development last week, Canadian mining company East Asia Minerals, said the plan to clear 1.2 million hectares was “positive news” for mining in the area.
An Indonesian forestry ministry spokesman says the government aims to approve the plan “in up to a month”.
In a strangely bold admission, East Asia Minerals explained how it is “working closely with Government officials in the country and has representatives on the ground in Aceh to obtain reclassification of the forestry zone from “protected forest” to a “production forest”.
Their statement suggests that they are effectively driving public policy, namely spatial planning, in Aceh.
It is imperative that spatial planning be based on sound scientific analysis of land suitability and environmental risks and it is outrageous to consider that such decisions could be driven by foreign companies with considerable financial incentive and complete disregard for the future wellbeing of local communities and a sustainable economy for Aceh.
Illegal logging and mining is already occurring in these concessions with devastating consequences for both the forest and the incredible wildlife it supports. The proposed changes to the spatial plan would also approve an extensive new network of roads, resulting in even further forest destruction and encroachment. In an area already prone to natural disasters, this is an incredibly dangerous decision and one which will invariably result in an increased loss of lives and huge economic losses to local communities.
Australian based conservation organisation, Wildlife Asia spokesperson, Clare Campbell said “Approval of the plan to free up this enormous area of forest for mining, paper and palm oil plantations is an environmental disaster of catastrophic proportions. Not only is this area the last chance for several species already in serious trouble but it also contains critical carbon sinks and forests that are essential for food security, regulating water flow and mitigating climate change. This will be devastating for the future of communities living in these areas as well as the broader region”.
Ms Campbell stated that “We have to stand strong against decisions that lack foresight. Wildlife Asia represents the wildlife, the people of Indonesia and the people of Australia. Forest destruction of this magnitude eventually impacts upon us all. We won’t compromise, the planet has been compromised enough. When does it stop?”
Wildlife Asia this week launched a campaign to raise funds to support local organisations in their mission to influence government decisions. Ms Campbell added “Campaigning at this level takes serious time and money and we need to pull in the heavyweights on this one. Once it’s gone, it’s gone…the future of the Sumatran orangutan, the Sumatran rhino and the people of Sumatra need the right decision to be made here. I urge all Australians to dig deep and assist us in any way possible”
Donations can be made here www.givenow.com.au/wildlifeasia
Wildlife Asia Director, Clare Campbell, is available for interviews and can be contacted on 0438 992 325
A Vancouver-based mining company is under attack for a proposal that could lead to the destruction of more than one million hectares of protected forests in a region of Sumatra known for its endangered wildlife.
East Asia Minerals Corp. denies it is behind a plan to take a swath of protected forest and reclassify it as “production forest.” But a number of environmental groups, some with wide international connections, are turning up the heat on the issue, and are blaming the company for a proposed deal that would open 1.2 million hectares of jungle to mining, logging and conversion to palm-oil plantations.
Kevin Vallely, a Canadian adventurer whose expeditions have taken him to some of the wildest places on the planet, said the rain forest of northern Sumatra is an international treasure that should be protected.
“It’s one of the last, massive, great tropical rain forest jungles left in the world,” he said. “This jungle is utterly magnificent. You go in there and you know it’s a different place. It’s teeming with wildlife. Why would we want to cut down one of the world’s most amazing forests?”
The area, which includes the Leuser National Park, a UNESCO world heritage site, is the only place in the world where tigers, elephants, orangutans and rhinos co-exist.
But Mr. Vallely, a North Vancouver architect who travelled through the region a few years ago, said some of the animals there – notably the endangered Sumatran rhino – are on the verge of extinction.
“There are something like 20 of them left,” he said. “If this [mining and logging] starts, you know it’s going to be the end of that rain-forest ecosystem … it’s over, end of story.”
That is the concern of a coalition of NGOs that includes Greenpeace South East Asia, Friends of the Earth Indonesia and the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme, among others.
The groups became alarmed recently when East Asia Minerals Corp. put out a press release announcing that the Indonesian government “is close to accepting a proposal to open 1.2 million hectares of forest” in Aceh province.
The news release suggested the company was actively involved in formulating the plan, which would make it easier to develop its Miwah gold-mining project, on the northern tip of Sumatra.
“The company is working closely with government officials in the country and have company representatives on the ground in Aceh to obtain reclassification of the forestry zone from ‘protected forest’ to ‘production forest,’ ” stated the release.
Edward Rochette, CEO of East Asia Minerals and the company spokesman on the Sumatra mining project, couldn’t be immediately reached for comment.
Craig MacPhail, head of investor relations for the company, said he couldn’t discuss the Miwah project or the controversy over reclassifying protected forests. But he agreed to “clarify” the wording of the release.
He said the release was simply meant as a statement by the company to update investors on developments taking place in Sumatra.
The company, he said, is not behind the plan to open the forests to development and is simply not influential enough to guide the government of Sumatra in its policy development.
“The Ministry of Forestry [in Sumatra] has suggested plans to reclassify protected forests to production forests. That’s what they have done. We haven’t done that,” he said. “We haven’t been leading a campaign to strip the forests of Indonesia … we haven’t suggested it. We were informing our investor base [in the press release] … about what Aceh province had been putting forward.”
Mr. MacPhail said his company would like to stay out of the argument over the future of the protected forests in Sumatra. But he admitted “it’s gotten pretty hot” since the release came out last week.
It is probably going to get a lot hotter as word spreads that Sumatra’s iconic rain forest is about to be put on the chopping block.
The company is working closely with government officials in the country and have company representatives on the ground in Aceh to obtain reclassification of the forestry zone from “protected forest” to “production forest.” East Asia Minerals has implemented a new Corporate Social Responsibility program and hired ex-government officials to help them with these efforts.
- Greenpeace: East Asia Mining Behind the Reclassification of Aceh’s Protection Forest (endoftheicons.wordpress.com)
- PRESS RELEASE: Aceh plans to clear 1.2 million hectares of protected forest trigger alarm over increase in landslides, floods and other natural disasters. (endoftheicons.wordpress.com)
- Mining company working with Indonesian government to strip forest of protected status (guardian.co.uk)
Jakarta (ANTARA News) – A number of non-governmental organizations have urged the Indonesian government to extend two-year moratorium on deforestation which will expire in May 2013, to protect the country`s remaining forests and peat lands.
In May 2011, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono signed long-waited Presidential Instruction No. 10/2011 on Moratorium on New Logging Concessions for Primary Forests and Peat lands, after a prolonged tug of war between environmentalists and business lobbyists.
Under the moratorium, no new licenses for logging concessions in parts of the country`s primary forests and peat lands can be issued.
The ban is also expected to support the government`s commitment to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 26 percent (or 41 percent with international assistance) by 2020, compared to business as usual. The nation aims to achieve 87 percent of this goal by reducing emissions from deforestation and peat land conversion.
Today, after the moratorium has been implemented for almost two years, some experts and environmentalists, however, believed the regulation needs to be extended, tightened and expanded because there have been many compromises so far.
Coinciding with the commemoration of the Earth Day on April 22, 2013, Greenpeace called on President Yudhoyono to extend the moratorium.
Not only to extend it, the government should strengthen the moratorium and expand its forest cover because the ban has been rather ineffective so far, said Yuyun Indradi, Greenpeace Indonesia`s campaign coordinator.
The moratorium must be strengthened and extended for the sake of the climate, for the millions of people who depend on forests for their livelihood and for the survival of protected species threatened with extinction, such as Sumatran tigers, and orangutans, according to Greenpeace.
Previously, the Indonesian Environmental Forum (Walhi) also urged the government to extend the forest moratorium to prevent social and environmental conflicts in the future.
“If the moratorium is not extended, we are certain in the next five years, social and environmental conflicts would rise in the 25 million hectares of Indonesian forest area,” Forest and Large Scale Plantation Campaign Manager of Walhi Zenzi Suhadi said.
The government should not only suspend the forest concessions, but also improve the management of forest and concession areas as well as impose sanctions against violators, Suhadi said.
He said the moratorium had not been effectively conducted as Walhi had found some attempts by local administrations and authorities to deceive the moratorium by proposing concessions for residential area.
A member of the State Audit Agency (BPK) in charge of environmental audit, Ali Masykur Musa, said the moratorium should be evaluated because it has been ineffective so far.
One of the aspects that need evaluation is the law enforcement against environmental destroyers, he stated.
Another call for the moratorium extension came from the National Strategy Working Unit of the Reducing Emission from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+).
“We recommend the moratorium to be extended one or two more years as the government is not ready to institutionalize the permit and management for forest utilization,” spokesperson of the REDD+ Working Unit Mubariq said on a discussion on deforestation moratorium in early April 2013.
Mubariq said there were overlapping coordination in 15 state institutions regarding forest concessions. They even have different maps of forest concession areas.
Thus, the extension on the moratorium is needed to reorganize the management and the legal issues concerning forest concession right, as well as to finish the mapping in 11 prioritized provinces in the REDD+ program, Mubariq said.
In response to the calls from various parties, Indonesian Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan voiced the country`s commitment to extending the implementation of the moratorium.
He expressed the commitment when speaking in the tenth United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF) held in Istanbul, Turkey, April 8-9, 2013, according to the forestry ministry in a statement recently.
During the 2009-2013 period, Indonesia has managed to reach averaged economic growth rate at 6.3 percent annually, despite the implementation of the moratorium, he said.
Indonesia has also managed to cut the deforestation rate from an average of 3.5 million hectares annually during the 1999-2002 period to around 450,000 ha during 2010-2011.
The forestry ministry is waiting for the President to make decision about the moratorium.
Recently, Environmental Affairs Minister Balthasar Kambuaya has expressed his support to the calls to extend the deforestation moratorium.
“The moratorium needs to be continued to protect our forests,”
the minister said here after launching “Towards Green Indonesia 2013″ campaign on April 26, 2014.
Indonesia has the world`s third largest expanse of tropical forest after Brazil and the countries of the Congo basin.
The moratorium is applicable to primary forests and peat lands in conserved forests, protected forests, production forests and the other use area (APL). Logging concessions can still issued on secondary or degraded forests.
Based on the forestry ministry`s 2010 data, Indonesia has 64.2 million hectares of primary forests, 24.5 million hectares of peat lands. Meanwhile, 7.4 million hectares of peat lands are located inside primary forests. Secondary forests cover a total area of 36.6 million hectares.
According to the forestry ministry, the country has 294 forest concession right (HPH) holders occupying around 27.1 million hectare areas, with total log productions at about five million m3 annually.
It also has 244 industrial timber plantations (HTI) covering 9.8 million hectares of forest area, and with total productions at 14 million m3 per year; people`s plantation forest reserves covering 700,000 hectares; and people`s plantation forests covering approximately 12 million hectares with log productions at over 25 million m3 per annum.
Indonesia also has 354 primary forestry companies with total productions at 49.2 million m3 annually; seven pulp plants with total productions up to 8.5 million tons per annum; 1,257 furniture factories; 20 paper plants with total production at 10 million tons per year; and 2,500 building material factories. Over one million people are employed in the forestry sector.
Last year, Bogor-based CIFOR`s senior scientist Daniel Murdiyarso urged the government to continue to improve forest governance if the moratorium is to have a significant impact.
“Certainly improvement of the governance system is a long term thing. That is to say we [have to] manage forests differently, and that needs a lot of change, in terms of people`s mindset, the organisation, the institutions, the rules and regulations – there are a lot of things to be done,” he said.
Washington DC-based World Resources Institute (WRI) recently analyzed the indicative moratorium map released by the forestry ministry in July 2011 and concluded that the moratorium in its current state will not contribute to Indonesia`s greenhouse gas emission reduction goal of 26 percent by 2020 as announced in 2009.
Although there are 43.3 million hectares (ha) of primary forests and peat lands and significant carbon stocks within the boundaries of the indicative moratorium map (IMM), the questionable status of secondary forests, the exemption of existing concessions, and the limited enforcement of the moratorium boundaries may result in gains being negated by other land-use emissions, according to WRI.
The WRI, however, believes that long-term positive impacts can still be achieved if significant governance reforms are accomplished during the moratorium period.
Mas Achmad Santosa, head of the Working Group for Legal Review and Law Enforcement on the Indonesian REDD+ Taskforce, agreed the moratorium should be extended.
“To achieve governance reform and consensus in forest related issues and natural resource management, it will take time. So two years is not enough,” he said.
“We need to learn lessons from the past two years, we need to improve it, to sharpen it, and to be more specific what kind of reforms are needed,” Santosa added.
Seattle, WA — (SBWIRE) — 04/30/2013 – There are only several thousand Sumatran orangutans left in the wild and their existence is threatened by a pending development plan by the Indonesian government to develop 1.2 million hectares of some of the most environmentally sensitive forest in the world. This threatens the very existence of the last few remaining Sumatran orangutans, tigers, rhinos, and elephants.
Palm Oil Consumer Action is urging US consumers to speak up for the orangutans with their buying decisions. According to LeAnn Fox, a spokesperson for POCA, United States consumers can influence decisions made in Indonesia simply by either boycotting products that use palm oil or insist that the brands they buy, use sustainable palm oil
“It is disappointing to see popular brands like Kelloggs, General Mills and Starbucks using tons of palm oil without having a truly sustainable palm oil policy. Looking at the Corporate Social Responsibility policies of these companies, you see great claims of sustainable practices. However, scientific data and reputable environmental groups decry the environmental disaster behind these companies use of palm oil. Groups including the WWF have long said that if nothing is done and quickly, unique species like the orangutans could become extinct in the wild in a a decade or so.
“Sustainable palm oil costs an average of $50 per ton from the US refiners of palm oil we spoke to” said Ms. Fox. “When you break that down into product cost its quite literally pennies per purchase of our favorite products. We are aware that previous experience with eco-friendly products has meant much higher retail prices but in the case of palm oil, its such a small ingredient in most products that $50 per ton additional cost for sustainable palm oil, companies really do not have an excuse to not use sustainable.”
POCA also acknowledges criticism of the ability to verify whether sustainable palm oil as certified by the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) is truly sustainable. The group organised an event recently so that consumers can communicate directly with the RSPO. Over 1400 comments were received from participants worldwide.
The RSPO is one of the few organizations that may have the ability to use economic forces to stop a full scale assault on orangutans by uncontrolled palm oil development. There are serious flaws in the sustainability supply chain but if you consider the option of unregulated palm oil production the importance of an effective regulatory body is apparent.
POCA has sent the recommendations from their consumer survey to the RSPO to initiate dialogue as to how to improve this flawed system. Key among them was a recommendation to introduce a rating system whereby producers claiming to be produce certified sustainable palm oil must be 100% certified. All other members that are working on becoming certified should be bound by strict timelines to do so but they will not be able to claim that they are producing Certified Sustainable Palm Oil ( CSPO ). A system like this would add greater credibility to RSPO certificates where the biggest criticism has been that members continue to openly violate RSPO rules while claiming to be producing CSPO.
As they continue to push US brands to either use sustainable palm oil or an alternative that does not have such a crushing impact on the environment, POCA encourages all Americans to join them in saving the endangered orangutan and Sumatran tigers by joining them in their campaigns urging US brands to create strong policies on their use of palm oil.
- Greenpeace statement: RSPO revisions too little and too late (dominicantoday.com)
- Would YOU Kill An Orangutan? Say NO to Palm Oil. (intentious.com)
- Cargill Dead Set On Plantation Expansion; Orphaned Orangutan Calls on CEO Gregory Page in Wayzata, MN. (understory.ran.org)
- Conservationists urge RSPO member to cease rainforest destruction after starving orangutans rescued from concession (thenewstribe.com)
- Why ‘RSPO Sustainable Palm Oil’ is not responsible (understory.ran.org)
Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) deputy chairman Busyro Muqoddas said a study on corruption conducted by the commission found that illegal logging and mining practices in Indonesia had involved at least 12 ministries and/or non-ministry governmental institutions.
Busyro went on to say that forest crimes occurred because the government conspired with perpetrators in forest areas used for intransparent business.
“Perpetrators of forest crimes are often called ‘unidentified officials’, however they commit the crime collectively,” said Busyro in a statement made available to The Jakarta Post on Tuesday.
He made the statements in a discussion, on Monday, held by Change.org in cooperation with Public Virtue Institute, End of the Icons, and Humanitarian Forums Indonesia at Muhammadiyah Central Board office to commemorate Earth Day which fell on April 22.
A researcher from ICW’s law and monitoring division, Donald Fariz, said the forestry sector had been marred by corrupt practices that included chaotic permit issuance procedures.
“Many illegal logging activities are supported by security officers. I also think there was corruption in the revision process of Aceh’s spatial planning bylaw (RTRW),” he said.
During the discussion, all participants urged the government to extend a moratorium that banned the issuance of new permits in natural forests and peat lands, which will expire on May 20.
They also urged the government to halt the revision process of Aceh’s RTRW, which has the potential to reduce protected forests in Aceh, including a tropical forest acclaimed by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as a “World Heritage” site. (ebf)
Related news, in Bahasa Indonesia