Environmental scientists and institutions are calling on the Aceh provincial administration to maintain the province’s biodiversity amid fears that an incoming spatial plan will further exploit its vast forests.
The scientists also called on the administration to preserve protected species as well as guarantee food supplies for residents living in the province’s lowlands.
“We expect the Aceh provincial administration to make use of scientific findings made by scientists working on biodiversity in Aceh and other countries,” said Antony J. Lynam, secretary of the Asia Pacific chapter of the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation (ATBC).
The association held a chapter meeting in Banda Aceh from March 18-22.
Scientists presented their research from various countries such as China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand at the conference.
“Through the research results, policy makers can decide on policies related to sustainable environmental management for the good of the public,” said Lynam.
Researchers grouped under ATBC came up with a declaration and recommendations for the Aceh administration, especially related to the provincial spatial plan (RTRW) that will be implemented soon.
The scientists said Aceh had a unique culture with the presence of customary institutions such as Mukim and Panglima Uteun, which in previous centuries had preserved 3.7 million hectares of forest for the welfare and well-being of future generations.
That was why Aceh’s forests were essential for food security through water supply management during dry and rainy seasons.
“Deforestation in Aceh’s highlands will increase the risk of flash floods for people living downstream in the coastal areas as well as threatening areas where special species such as elephants, tigers and orangutan live together,” said Lynam.
The special autonomy granted to Aceh by the central government allowed the province to develop an innovative RTRW, showing that economic development and environmentally-based management could be implemented
Aceh’s forests have been globally recognized, with the Gunung Leuser National Park inside the protected Leuser Ecosystem being declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
However, scientists believe that some components of the Aceh RTRW, especially the development of the forestry sector and latest infrastructure projects, will pose serious risks to the environment, such as a loss of natural hydrology functions and serious damage in lowland rivers and fisheries, which will have a negative effect on human life and biodiversity.
Lynam said the scientists recommended that the Aceh RTRW be based on high quality spatial data, which was already available in various provincial agencies. The data includes maps of forest areas along rivers, environmental risks, soil types, geological disasters, population, rain intensity and wildlife in Aceh.
Meanwhile, Bill Laurence of James Cook University, Australia, said the provincial administration had to avoid opening access roads around forests, especially the remaining conservation forests.
“Opening roads around those ecosystem areas would be like opening a wound that would never heal. Roads will provide access to forest pillaging and opening,” he said.
“Once the infrastructure is developed, then the forest will head toward destruction,” he added.
Laurence expected the Aceh administration to carefully consider opening roads in ecosystem areas, including for reasons related to improving the public’s economic condition.
“We must prevent long-term, bigger losses that will overshadow short-term benefits,” he said.
- Sciencists urged to stand up for Aceh’s biodiversity (endoftheicons.wordpress.com)
- Conservation scientists: Aceh’s spatial plan a risk to forests, wildlife, and people (endoftheicons.wordpress.com)
HuffPost Green | Dr. Reese Halter
The recent reports from Indonesia are sending a clarion wake-up call around the globe: Rapid illegal rainforest logging is escalating. School children from around the globe are becoming involved to help save endangered animals and their home – the rainforest.
It’s heartbreaking that ‘The War Against Nature‘ is destroying over 300 football fields of tropical rainforests every hour. Critically endangered Indonesian tigers, elephants, rhinoceros, yellow-crested cockatoos and orangutans are perilously close to extinction.
Indonesian’s rapacious annihilation of its tropical rainforests including draining peatland swamps is being driven by an insatiable demand for palm oil from China, India and elsewhere. Palm oil is the world’s most consumed vegetable oil. It’s a $40 billion annual industry that’s rapidly expanding.
Hundreds of millions of dollars have been paid to various provinces throughout Indonesia to set aside and protect vast tracts of rainforest, which contain some of Earth’s finest carbon warehouses most worthy of supreme protection. It is infuriating and confounding to watch the Governor of Indonesia’s Aceh province in northern Sumatra reduce the protected rainforest area from 68 to 45 percent – enabling the expansion of palm oil plantations. Much of that rainforest logging will now take place on steep slopes, highly vulnerable to landslides during the rainy season (October to April) causing irreparable damage to local communities.
The renown Leuser Ecosystem home to Sumatran tigers, rhinos, elephants and orangutans is not even acknowledged according to the new plan.
The fact that the international community has donated tens of millions of dollars to the Aceh province alone, and now new roads, mines, timber extraction and palm oil plantations are being granted indicates the high level of duplicity and corruption taking place at the expense of local people and Nature.
Elsewhere in central Sumatra in the province of Riau, over the past decade, Tesso Nilo National Park has been reduced from 182,000 acres (2002) by illegal logging to only 81,400 acres, today. Over 100,000 acres of Tesso Nilo National Park were taken, destroyed and converted into palm oil plantations. The wild critters are doomed. Ravenous tigers are killing humans in a last ditch effort to survive.
According to a Riau local “Law enforcement is an important measure to tackle the clearing of forests – especially when it involves perpetrators with big bank accounts.”
Illegal rainforest logging is rampant throughout Indonesia. And now concerned school children from around the globe are weighing in and helping to protect Borneo’s exquisite rainforests.
Last year a group of Cleveland District State High School students from Queensland, Australia, partook in saving rainforests and orangutans in Indonesia.
A global learning project named DeforestACTION enabled the students to monitor Borneo’s rainforest from drones and satellite images helping to protect it from illegal loggers. In addition to hands-on monitoring of Borneo’s forests, the Australian students raised over $5,000 for the locals in Borneo.
This hands-on approach of ecology and conservation-in-action empowered the students; they are passionate about saving wild animals and Nature.
Perhaps even more importantly, DeforestACTION shows school children that together they have a potent voice and an active role in protecting the environment and our planet.
Interested in knowing more about Borneo’s disappearing rainforests? Then consider watching the eco-thriller: ‘The Burning Season‘.
Earth Dr Reese Halter is a broadcaster, biologist and author of The Insatiable Bark Beetle.
- Dr. Reese Halter: Indonesia’s Protected Rainforests Disappearing (huffingtonpost.com)
By Chris Lang, REDD Monitor | 22nd March 2013
More details about the Province of Aceh’s proposed spatial plan are emerging. The Jakarta Post reported this week that if the plan were approved in its current form, an area of 1.2 million hectares of forest would be converted “into plantation and mining areas and other purposes”.
The plan proposes the creation of a transmigration site inside the Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra, recognised by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. This covers a total area of 2.5 million hectares and consists of three national parks, including Gunung Leuser National Park in Aceh. The proposed spatial plan makes no mention of either the Leuser Ecosystem or of the Ulu Masen REDD project.
According to a press release from conservationists in Aceh, an area of slightly less than one million hectares is proposed to be allocated as mining concessions. Logging concessions would cover 416,086 hectares and oil palm plantations a further 256,250 hectares.
The protected status of the Tripa Peat Swamp would be removed. An extensive road network would be revived under the plan. Known locally as the “spider’s web”, the plan was previously rejected because of the impact it would have on Aceh’s forests. Meanwhile, only 14,704 hectares is proposed to be allocated to communities.
Earlier this week, environmentalists protested outside the Hermes Hotel in Banda Aceh, demanding that the government cancel the proposed spatial plan.
An on-line petition has been set up, which already has more than 16,000 signatures, asking Zaini Abdullah, the Govenor of Aceh, to reject the plan to convert 1.2 million hectares of Aceh’s forests and to review the spatial plan. The petition also asks the governments of Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland “to assist with the funding and technical support for the Aceh Government to revisit and revise this potential disaster”. Sign the petition here, or click on the image below:
An interesting question is whether Aceh’s proposals are in breach of the US$1 billion Indonesia-Norway REDD deal. Obviously, they are in breach of the spirit of REDD, because the proposals will increase emissions from deforestation and forest degradation. The Letter of Intent between Norway and Indonesia, signed in May 2010 states that,
The purpose of the Partnership is to contribute to significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation, forest degradation and peatland conversion.
This is supposed to be achieved by “Conducting a policy dialogue on international climate change policy,” in particular on REDD, and “Collaboration in supporting the development and implementation of Indonesia’s REDD+ strategy.”
According to the Governors’ Climate and Forests Task Force website, completing the spatial plan was part of “Aceh’s 2011 Operational Framework for REDD+ Implementation”. Although it was not completed in 2011, presumably the spatial plan for Aceh remains under the framework of Indonesia’s REDD programme.
But whether the Norwegian Government (or any of the other REDD initiatives in Indonesia) will do or say anything to stop the destruction of Aceh’s forests is another matter. If the Aceh government were allocating new concessions in areas of primary forest, then it would be in breach of the moratorium under the Indonesia-Norway deal. But if the forest is secondary, or the concessions existed before the moratorium came into effect, then the Indonesia-Norway deal has nothing to say. In any case there are no real sanctions under the moratorium. And in a few week’s time the moratorium is set to expire.
The Letter of Intent makes no mention of free, prior and informed consent, but does include the following principle on participation:
Give all relevant stakeholders, including indigenous peoples, local communities and civil society, subject to national legislation, and, where applicable,
international instruments, the opportunity of full and effective participation in REDD+ planning and implementation.
Efendi, a spokesperson for the Coalition of people Concerned for Aceh’s Forests (KPHA),explains that the spatial plan has been produced without consultation with local communities and NGOs:
“Despite our best efforts, communities and NGOs have been completely excluded from the development process of the new spatial plan, which has totally lacked transparency and accountability.”
One “success story” of the Indonesia-Norway deal is the fact that the maps showing the moratorium area are publicly available. AMAN, Indonesia’s indigenous peoples alliance, is attempting using this “One Map” policy as an opportunity to promote its initiative of mapping indigenous territory. In November 2012, 265 maps of indigenous peoples land were handed to the REDD+ Task Force, with a request that these maps be included in the official “One Map”.
But even this “One Map” policy is not a complete success. Down To Earth commented recently that,
[W]hen DTE tried to access some of the maps mid-February  many of the map layers were not accessible and there was not an obvious means of accessing information about, say, mining and oil and gas concessions. This information is also not accessible via the most obvious place – the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry website. In contrast, there is a whole wealth of maps publicly available via the Forestry Ministry’s website, including archives as well as the moratorium maps in all four versions.
Earlier this month, Norway’s Ambassador, Stig Traavik, visited Central Kalimantan. On itswebsite, the Norwegian Embassy explains that the purpose of the visit was “to observe progresses on REDD+ preparation and implementation in the REDD+ Pilot Province”. Of course, the Embassy makes no mention of the problems with the Australian-funded Kalimantan Forest Climate Project, or the vast (and increasing) area of oil palm plantations in the province.
Neither does the Embassy refer to the fact that the Letter of Intent refers to a second province-wide pilot which “could be chosen by late 2011 and implemented by early 2012″. Of course, this has not happened. Along with many other things that were agreed under the Indonesia-Norway deal. In an recent statement, Greenpeace Indonesia comments that,
[L]ittle progress has been made so far on the moratorium and the key outputs agreed as part of the US$1 bn Indonesia-Norway forest protection deal; the establishment of the REDD Agency, and the financial and monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) institutions, have not yet been achieved. The main roadblocks to more progress have been poor governance, outdated maps and data, the lack of clear social and environmental safeguards and the definition of degraded land.
Indonesia has several REDD initiatives running in parallel. There’s the US$1 billion Indonesia-Norway REDD deal. The World Bank has its Forest Carbon Partnership Facility and Forest Investment Programme. Then there’s the UN Office for REDD+ Coordination in Indonesia (the replacement for the UN-REDD Indonesia programme, that closed its office in January 2013). But will any of them attempt to reduce deforestation and forest degradation in Aceh?
March 22, 2013
A group of biologists and conservation scientists meeting in Sumatra warned that potential changes to Aceh’s spatial plan could undermine some of the ecological services that underpin the Indonesian province’s economy and well-being of its citizens. After its meeting from March 18-22 in Banda Aceh, the Asia chapter of the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation (ATBC) issued a declaration [PDF] highlighting the importance of the region’s tropical forest ecosystem, which is potentially at risk due to proposed changes to its spatial plan or system of land-use zoning.
Under the new spatial plan, more than 150,000 hectares of previously protected forest land would be given over for logging and conversion to plantations. Nearly a million hectares of mining exploration licenses would be granted.
One concern is that some concessions are located in steep watersheds that sustain lowland rice production. Another worry, highlighted by environmental groups, is that substantial blocks of surviving lowland habitats for orangutans would be put up for logging and oil palm plantations, putting the critically endangered species at increased risk. Aceh is one the only place on Earth where orangutans, rhinos, tigers, and elephants can be found living in the same forest.
The ATBC resolution notes some of these concerns. “Aceh forests are essential for food security, regulating water flows in both the monsoon and drought seasons to irrigate rice fields and other cash crops,” states the declaration. “Forest disruption in Aceh’s upland areas will increase the risk of destructive flooding for people living downstream in the coastal lowlands.”
ATBC says that the proposed spatial plan “will elevate the risk of serious local environmental problems, a loss of key nature hydrological functions, and serious disruption of lowland river systems and fisheries, which could negatively affect human livelihoods and biodiversity.” It adds that “further conversion of lowland forest will increase conflicts between people and surviving wild elephants, posing a significant threat to farming livelihoods.”
The group, which is the largest association of tropical conservation scientists, therefore recommended that Aceh’s spatial plan “be based on the extensive, high-quality spatial data that are available within the Government of Aceh agencies, especially maps on watershed forest areas, environmental risk, soil types, geological hazards, human population centers, rainfall and the distribution of Aceh’s wildlife.” It also called for action against illegal logging, forest conservation, and road construction.
ATBC-Asia urged the Aceh government to adopt an economic development model that “prioritizes clean development and payments for environmental services, while limiting unsustainable natural resource extraction.
Aceh has the most extensive forest cover of any province in Sumatra. It has had a moratorium on logging since 2007, although the new spatial plan would effectively end the logging ban.
- Sciencists urged to stand up for Aceh’s biodiversity (endoftheicons.wordpress.com)
The Globe Journal | Afifuddin Acal
(Original in Bahasa Indonesian)
Monday, March 18, 2013 18:56 pm
Banda Aceh – Dozens of environmental activists who joined in Aceh Spatial Alliance (ATRA), staged Monday afternoon in front of the Hermes Hotel Aceh demanded that the government cancel the Spatial Layout Plan (Spatial Plan) Aceh are being discussed.
Action coordinator, Faisal Kamal said that, RTRW Aceh is full of interest and breaking the rules. Overlapping concession permit were found in various locations that was initially protected and proposed to be unprotected. These concession doesnt fulfil their duties and breaking the law, they also doesnt have IPKH (Permits to utilize Forest Area).
“The plan of Qanun Spatial Plan (Provincial Law) is heavily indicated with procedurally flaw and violation to the law,” said Faisal Kamal in his speech.
Moreover, the Director of Walhi Aceh, Zulfikar T.Muhammad in his speech said that Aceh is prone to natural disasters. This is a result of unsuitable utilization of Aceh forests, which will be worsen if the current spatial plan proceed at its current course.
“The people of Aceh currently being misled, and we are rejecting the Spatial Plans currently being pushed and lobbied,” said TM Zulfikar in his speech.
While other orators mentioned, during the designing process of Aceh new spatial plan, Government of Aceh actively refuse to involve community and NGOs as stakeholders. Supposedly, the draft spatial plan should first being consulted the broader community, as direct beneficiaries and most at risk.
“The Spatial Plan currently being designed by the government only impressive on the table and not on the ground, therefore, we are requesting the plan to be re-designed by involving all stakeholders,” said Isma Effensi.
In the action held in front yard Hermes Hotel was guarding by local police. Dozens of police seen stood guard around the Hermes.
After doing the speech for about 30 minutes, Head of Forestry, Husaini Syamaun directly meet the protesters. On that occasion, Husaini promised not to let the forests of Aceh damaged.
“The Government of Aceh will not destroy forest, let alone allow law violation, the Government of Aceh is committed to keep the forest,” said Husaini Syamaun front of the protesters.
Furthermore, he said, do not listen exhale issues by parties that are not responsible. “Please only use official information, do not get stuck with issues if its not officials,” he said. Yet, protester have stated that official information are next to impossible to access.
Dozens of community hold public demonstration in front of Hermes Palace Hotel rejecting the proposed Aceh spatial plan
Dozens of people incorporated in the community forums and NGOs in Aceh Tamiang, staged a demonstration in front of the Hermes Palace Hotel, Monday, March 18, 2013, at 17.00 hrs. Comminuties rejected the proposed Spatial Plan (RTRW) Aceh.
Director Walhi Aceh, TM Zulfikar, who also perform this action said that it rejected the proposed spatial plan of Aceh. He also invites people to voice out their concern on Aceh new spatial plan.
“Many people want to extract Aceh resources, land and forest, taking into example in Aceh Tamiang where protected forests turned into Areas for Other Land Use (APL) in proposed spatial plan. This is a major disavantage for the community who are put at risk when natural disaster such as flood wash over their agriculture and villages. That is the reason why we are rejecting proposed spatial plan,” said TM Zulfikar.
ATJEHPOST observed, the protesters also shouted slogans anti RTRW Aceh. According to the protesters, a number of areas proposed to be re-designated from protected forest to Other Land Use are overlapping with illegal palm oil concession and encroachment, which show the likelihood of ‘white-washing’ efforts government is taking against these illegal behavior.
originally published in Indonesian
When the government’s moratorium on deforestation expires on May 20, forest areas in Papua province will be in peril, activists say.
Kiki Taufik from Greenpeace Indonesia said that Ministerial Decree No. 458/2012 issued in August last year stipulated that around 800,000 hectares of forest in Papua, including protected forest would be converted into productive forest and other utilization area (APL). He urged the government to extend the moratorium and revise the decree.
“By issuing the decree, it seems that the ministry was preparing to open up the forest area for businesses ahead of the expiry date of the two-year moratorium map,” Kiki said in a press conference on Thursday.
Teguh Surya, the forest political campaigner for Greenpeace Indonesia, said that the decree would pave the way for the rezoning of 376,535 hectares of forest areas into non-forest zone, as well as the conversion of 392,535 hectares of protected forest into productive forest.
“Even though the decree also stipulates a conversion of around 41,000 hectares of non-forest areas into forest areas, it is not comparable to the protected forests converted into productive forest and APL,” Teguh said. “Moreover, the non-forest area could not replace the function of primary forest, because its destruction could endanger the province’s water management as well as ecological system,” he added.
Papua has 25 million hectares of protected areas followed by Kalimantan with 14 million hectares and Sumatra with 13 million hectares.
Around 90 percent of 31.9 million hectares of land in Papua province is still forest. However, Kiki said, half already have the status of productive forest or APL, which, if the ministry did not revise the decree, would soon be utilized for concessions.
Recently, environmental activists called on the Forestry Ministry to reject the draft spatial planning bylaw proposed by the Aceh administration, that would allow the conversion of around 1.2 million hectares of its existing 3.78 million hectares of protected forests into productive forests.
“Should the government continue with its plan to convert protected forests in Papua, we are afraid it would help the Aceh administration get approval for its new spatial planning draft,” Teguh said. “This means Indonesia faces losing a total of 2 million hectares of protected forest within a short period of time.”
Separately, the Association for Community and Ecology Based Law Reform (Huma) program coordinator Anggalia Putri said the decree violated the president’s commitment to the protection of forests, including the establishment of Reducing Emission from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+). She said the forest conversion would trigger conflict between local communities and business practitioners in Papua.
“Around 65 percent of agrarian conflict is linked to the conversion of forest areas into plantations.” (nad)
Environmental activists have condemned the Aceh administration following confirmation that it planned to reverse a logging ban imposed by the previous administration and clear up to 1.2 million hectares of protected forest across the province.
Efendi, a spokesman for the Coalition of People Concerned for Aceh’s Forests (KPHA), said at a media conference in Jakarta on Thursday that the provincial administration’s special planning committee had confirmed that the Forestry Ministry had approved of “almost 100 percent” of proposed changes to its spatial plans.
This would slash the proportion of protected forest in the province from 68 percent to 45 percent, and cause the loss of 1.2 million hectares of forest.
“Despite our best efforts, communities and NGOs have been completely excluded from the development process of the new spatial plan, which has totally lacked transparency and accountability,” Efendi said.
He said the proposed change in status for protected forests “is closely linked to planned expansion of palm oil plantations and mining.”
“There is an inevitable belief that the proposal is simply to legalize illegal activities already taking place as several mining and palm oil concessions overlap the areas scheduled for downgrading,” he said.
Activists also called into question the claim by the administration that transforming large swaths of forest into mining and oil palm concessions would lead to greater land availability for local communities.
They noted that the area to be allocated to the community was just over 1 percent of the planned new opening of forest area, or 14,704 hectares, while the largest allocations would go toward mining, at just under 1 million hectares, logging concessions (416,086 hectares), and oil palm concessions (256,250 hectares).
They also said that the latter concessions would cover the entire Tripa peat swamp, a protected area that is considered an important habitat for the critically endangered Sumatran orangutan and that has received much international attention due to illegal clearing there by palm oil companies.
The illegal clearing is still being investigated by the Environment Ministry and the police.
‘Extremely dangerous move’
The KPHA also warned that in addition to the new “large-scale exploitative industrial developments,” the spatial plan also paved the way for the construction of an extensive road network that would cut through currently protected forests, “further disrupting wildlife and watersheds in the region and opening up even more forests for exploitation, both legal and illegal.”
“Famously once known as the ‘Ladia Galaska’ road network, or the ‘Spider Web,’ for its appearance, the plan is once again being resurrected, despite being rejected in the past by popular demand due to the severe environmental damage it would bring,” the group said in a statement.
Graham Usher, a landscape protection specialist previously involved in forest mapping under the previous Aceh governor, Irwandi Yusuf, said: “Areas that had previously been identified as being too high or too steep for conversion, or as having inappropriate soil types and heavy rainfall, so that under existing Indonesian regulations they should be protected forests, have now been identified as targets for logging concessions, roads, mining concessions and palm oil plantations.
“Opening up such forests is an extremely dangerous move. Aceh’s people know very well that removal of forests on such steep and unstable soils results in devastating landslides and floods during the heavy rains that Aceh receives every year.
“The plan to clear these forests is a serious mistake that will result in the loss of yet more innocent lives and huge economic losses for the province.”
The activists said it was likely that “a number of national laws have been breached” by the administration of Governor Zaini Abdullah in drawing up the proposed changes. Under Irwandi, large-scale logging and forest clearing were prohibited.
Ian Singleton, from the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Program, said it was not just the iconic apes that would disappear if the spatial plan went into force.
“It is now being proposed that Tripa lose its currently protected status altogether, and for this unique peat swamp ecosystem and all its biodiversity and potentially hugely valuable carbon stock to be handed over to the palm oil companies for final, total obliteration,” he said.
“The new spatial plan does not even acknowledge the existence of the world-renowned Leuser Ecosystem protected area or the fact that the forests they intend to ‘unprotect’ are the last main hope for the long-term survival of iconic Sumatran endemic species such as the Sumatran tiger, elephant and rhinoceros. The future of each of these species, and countless others, will be placed in immediate jeopardy if the plans are allowed to proceed.”
Singleton added it was ironic that after receiving tens of millions of dollars from the international community to protect its forests, the Aceh administration “now plans to trash them for roads, new mines, timber and oil palm concessions.”
Rudi Hadiansyah Putra, the conservation manager for the Leuser Ecosystem Management Authority (BPKEL), said conservationists had worked hard to protect Aceh’s forests, and that what the provincial administration proposed doing would set back all their efforts.
“The community understand very well from previous devastating flash floods that clearing the forests upstream has a direct impact on the river flow and their own safety downstream,” he said.
“The people of Aceh are no fools. We know that when these unstable areas are cut, it directly leads to increasing natural disasters. If even the villagers know this, why do the Aceh government’s advisers not comprehend this simple connection?”
PRESS RELEASE: Aceh plans to clear 1.2 million hectares of protected forest trigger alarm over increase in landslides, floods and other natural disasters.
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Aceh plans to clear 1.2 million hectares of protected forest trigger alarm over increase in landslides, floods and other natural disasters.
[JAKARTA] An alarming admission from the chairman of the Aceh Government’s Spatial Planning Committee is fuelling serious concern over the potential illegal loss of 1.2 million hectares of Aceh’s protected forests, as was explained in detail at a press conference today in Jakarta.
Tgk. Anwar, today, in the Aceh Post, stated that the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry has accepted ‘almost 100%’ of the Aceh Government’s new spatial plan proposal. Earlier, he told the Sydney Morning Herald that Aceh was preparing to reduce its protected forest area from 68% to 45%, meaning the loss of 1.2 million hectares.
“The proposed changes have been wholly rejected by Aceh’s community and environmental non-governmental organisations,” explained Efendi, spokesperson for the Coalition of people Concerned for Aceh’s Forests (KPHA), “Despite our best efforts, communities and NGO’s have been completely excluded from the development process of the new spatial plan, which has totally lacked transparency and accountability. One week ago a coalition of 18 local and International NGO’s sent a letter to the Ministry of Forestry calling on him to reject the proposed downgrading of the protected status of several wildlife reserves, protected forests, and hunting parks, to “other land use”, which we naturally suspect is closely linked to planned expansion of palm oil plantations and mining. There is an inevitable belief that the proposal is simply to legalize illegal activities already taking place as several mining and palm oil concessions overlap the areas scheduled for downgrading. The plan also includes creating a new transmigration site within the UNESCO Sumatra Tropical Rainforest World Heritage Site. Furthermore, the new plan makes absolutely no mention of the legally and nationally protected Leuser Ecosystem, a National Strategic Area for its environmental function, and the abolishment of the Ulu Masen’s designation as a Provincial Strategic Area.”
The plan to transform huge areas of Aceh forest into mining and palm oil plantations has also been promoted by academic adviser to the Aceh government, Dr Irfan, who declared that under the new plan ”there are more areas given for the community”. Yet on further examination, the area to be allocated to community is only slightly over 1% of the planned new opening of forest (14,704 hectares), whilst by far the largest allocations go to mining (slightly less than 1,000,000 hectares) logging concessions (416,086 hectares), and palm oil concessions (256,250 hectares). The latter also includes plans to remove the protected status of the entire Tripa Peat Swamp Forest, an area that has received massive international attention due to illegal activities by palm oil companies destroying a global priority habitat of the critically endangered Sumatran orangutan, which are still subject to ongoing Ministry of Environment and National Police legal action. In addition to these proposed new large-scale exploitive industrial developments, the new spatial plan also gives approval for an extensive new road network that will cut through currently protected forests, further disrupting wildlife and watersheds in the region and opening up even more forests for exploitation, both legal and illegal. Famously once known as the ‘Ladia Galaska’ road network, or the ‘Spider Web’, for its appearance, the plan is once again being resurrected, despite being rejected in the past by popular demand due to the severe environmental damage it would bring.
“Areas that had previously been identified as being too high or too steep for conversion, or as having inappropriate soil types and heavy rainfall, so that under existing Indonesian regulations they should be Protected Forests (Hutan Lindung), have now been identified as targets for logging concessions, roads, mining concessions and palm oil plantations, ” explained Graham Usher, a landscape protection specialist who has worked in Indonesia for almost 30 years and was previously involved in the Tipereska forest data review and mapping process for Aceh under the previous Governor. “Opening up such forests is an extremely dangerous move. Aceh’s people know very well that removal of forests on such steep and unstable soils results in devastating landslides and floods during the heavy rains that Aceh receives every year. Taking three case studies, we can easily map and predict serious long term threats to communities from reduced food security, soil impacts, landslides and flooding. The plan to clear these forests is a serious mistake that will result in the loss of yet more innocent lives and huge economic losses for the province.”
Dr Ian Singleton, of the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Program added his concern, “Despite the ongoing legal action against palm oil companies brought by NGOs, the Ministry of the Environment and the National Police, it is now being proposed that Tripa lose its currently protected status altogether, and for this unique peat swamp ecosystem and all its biodiversity and potentially hugely valuable carbon stock to be handed over to the palm oil companies for final, total obliteration. And now its not just Tripa and orangutans either. The new spatial plan does not even acknowledge the existence of the world renowned Leuser Ecosystem protected area or the fact that the forests they intend to “unprotect” are the last main hope for the long-term survival of iconic Sumatran endemic species such as the sumatran tiger, elephant and rhinoceros. The future of each of these species, and countless others, will be placed in immediate jeopardy if the plans are allowed to proceed. The Leuser Ecosystem is protected by National Spatial Planning law as a National Strategic Area for it’s Environmental Function. Ignoring the Leuser Ecosystem and these species’ habitat is absurd, and must surely be rejected by the Ministry of Forestry, who had given such praise to the previous Spatial Plan for Aceh, that in contrast to the new one was based on sound scientific and community impact studies. Its ironic that Aceh’s forests have received tens of millions of dollars from donor countries over recent decades for their protection, including major funds from the Multi Donor Fund after the 2004 tsunami, and yet after all that the Provincial Government now plans to trash them for roads, new mines, timber and oil palm concessions.”
Legal scrutiny of the new Aceh Spatial Plan and the process of its promotion to date also indicates that shortcuts have been made and people are being misled, such that it is highly likely that a number of national laws have been breached. If found to be true, this would put Aceh Governor Zaini Abdullah and others within his government at risk of legal repercussions. The local community of Aceh Tamiang have in fact already expressed their alarm and issued a legal warning letter, or ‘somasi’, threatening legal action if the plans are allowed to go ahead. This illustrates very clearly that the new plan does not have the support of Aceh’s people.
2013 Future for Nature Award winner, Rudi Putra, the first Indonesian citizen to win this major international award in it’s 30-year history, has been working with the community of Aceh Tamiang and the local police on law enforcement activities to seize and destroy oil palms illegally planted in the protected Leuser Ecosystem. “In the last 3 years we’ve shut down 24 illegal palm oil plantations, and cut down the illegal palms themselves and restore and regenerate the natural forest, to restore the natural function of the forest to protect the communities, with great success. The community understand very well from previous devastating flash floods in the area, most notably in 2006, that clearing the forests upstream has a direct impact on the river flow and their own safety downstream. The people of Aceh are no fools, we know that when these unstable areas are cut, it directly leads to increasing natural disasters. If even the villagers know this why do the Aceh Government’s advisors not comprehend this simple connection. To protect the communities of Aceh, their safety and their livelihoods, we must protect the forests of Aceh and keep watersheds intact. It is not difficult to understand.” He reiterated.
“Aceh’s forests and the Leuser Ecosystem are the only place in the world where we have Sumatran rhinos, tigers, elephants and orangutans all living in the same area. Next week there is a major international conference on Asian Tropical Biodiversity taking place in Banda Aceh too, with hundreds of international and national scientists attending. How can this be happening at the same time that our provincial government is planning to wipe out our rich and unique biodiversity with this new spatial plan. It simply MUST be rejected immediately for the benefit of all of us.” he added.
For further question or comment:
Graham Usher, Lanscape Protection Specialist
Rudy Putra, 2013 Future for Nature Award Winner
Effendi Isma, KPHA Spokeperson
Note to editors:
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- Leuser Ecosystem Under Serious Threat (endoftheicons.wordpress.com)
- Son of Aceh Received Prestigious Nature Conservation Award from The Netherlands (endoftheicons.wordpress.com)
- Large blocks of Sumatra’s endangered rainforest may be put up for mining, logging (endoftheicons.wordpress.com)
- NGOs slam forest concession reactivation (endoftheicons.wordpress.com)
- URGENT CALL FOR ACTION – 4 day “fax-a-thon” to save beyond 1.2 million hectares of forest in Aceh Province, Sumatra (endoftheicons.wordpress.com)