Archive | March 2013

Aceh told to keep its forests intact

The Jakarta Post | Hotli Simanjuntak

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.

Indonesia’s Protected Rainforests Disappearing

HuffPost Green | Dr. Reese Halter

Green News , Leuser Ecosystem , Tesso Nilo National Park , The War Against Nature , Deforestation , Logging , Palm Oil , Rainforests , Green News

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.

Please support the work of Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Program, Rain Forest Action Network, DeforestACTION, WWF and Greenpeace.

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.

Can REDD save the forests of Aceh?

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 [2013] 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?

Conservation scientists: Aceh’s spatial plan a risk to forests, wildlife, and people

Rhett A. Butler,

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

The Jakarta Post | Hotli Simanjuntak and Ruslan Sangaji,

Banda Aceh/Palu | Archipelago | Wed, March 20 2013, 10:47 AM

Paper Edition | Page: 5

Institutions affiliated with the Aceh Spatial Planning Alliance have urged scientists and conservationists to push the Aceh provincial administration to amend the spatial planning bylaw (RTRW), which they say is potentially damaging and could reduce the region’s forests, threatening its biodiversity.

Aceh is regarded as having the largest biodiversity in Asia Pacific, especially with the Leuser Ecosystem, which is currently a giant laboratory for scientists from across the globe.

The region is also where many wildlife species can be found, such as the rhinoceros, Sumatran tiger, orangutan and elephant.

According to Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) director TM Zulfikar, the Aceh RTRW is loaded with the interests of particular individuals and sacrifices the environment and sustainability of local communities living in the conservation area.

“We reject the proposed Aceh RTRW. Many people wish to take advantage of natural resources in Aceh, such as the forest in Aceh Tamiang, which will be turned into other areas in the planned RTRW,” said Zulfikar.

In the planned Aceh RTRW, the government plans to 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.

In the draft, drawn up in 2009, Aceh’s forested areas reached 3.57 million hectares, or around 63 percent of the total land area of Aceh. Should the proposed RTRW be accepted by the central government, Aceh could lose up to 2.5 million hectares of its forested areas.

Ian Singleton, from the Sumatra Orangutan Conservation Program, said the change in forest area allocation proposed in the draft RTRW had the potential to shrink major water resources, such as rivers, that irrigated rice fields in Pidie regency, as well as bringing the threat of flash floods and landslides.

Meanwhile, biodiversity experts from 25 Asia Pacific nations are gathering in Banda Aceh, Aceh, to attend a conference on tropical biodiversity protection sponsored by the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation (ATBC). The meeting is aimed at promoting research as well as raising people’s awareness about the importance of tropical biodiversity and conservation.

The conference is being facilitated by the Aceh provincial administration through Syiah Kuala University, Fauna and Flora International (FFI) and the Strategic Resources Institute, under the theme, “Linking Biodiversity Science to Policy and Conservation Action”.

The conference is taking place from March 18 to 22 and will be followed with a trip to Ulu Masen forest, one of the forests in Aceh that has the biggest biodiversity in the province.

Aceh was chosen to hold the meeting because of its biodiversity reputation.

“There’s no other place in the world like Aceh, where species live in the same area. That’s why we chose Aceh to hold this meeting,” said ATBC secretary Antony J. Lynam.

“One of the biggest problems faced by tropical diversity is the defragmentation and loss of forests. There’s so many cases where deforestation has contributed to the depletion of species like the rhino, tiger and orangutan,” said Lynam.

Separately, Central Sulawesi is also facing deforestation and environmental degradation. The province lost 600,000 hectares of a total of 4.3 million hectares of forest areas in 2012.

Central Sulawesi Forestry Office head Nahardi said critical forests were found in 10 regencies, such as Donggala (147,504 hectares), Poso (118,893 hectares) and Parigi Moutong (99,997 hectares).

Nahardi added that 220,288.33 hectares of the total forested area in Central Sulawesi had experienced deforestation and degradation.

He said the office had initiated several strategies, such as a rehabilitation and conservation program, to reduce the area of critical forests across the province.


Environmental Activist Urges the Government of Aceh Review Spatial Plan

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

The Atjeh Post

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