Tag Archive | Spatial plan

PRESS RELEASE : Aceh NGOs call on the European Union to urgently mediate as conflict escalates over Aceh Parliament’s illegal land use plan

PRESS RELEASE – Aceh Forest Coalition

13/03/2014 – For immediate distribution

Illegal forest destruction to make way for palm oil expansion inside the Leuser Ecosystem, Aceh: The Leuser Ecosystem is the last place on earth where tigers, rhinos, elephants and orang-utans all found living together in the wild and is currently being threatened by an illegal land use by-law being driven by the Aceh Provincial Parliament despite being protected by national law.  Credit: Forest, Nature and Environment Aceh (HAkA)

Illegal forest destruction to make way for palm oil expansion inside the Leuser Ecosystem, Aceh: The Leuser Ecosystem is the last place on earth where tigers, rhinos, elephants and orang-utans all found living together in the wild and is currently being threatened by an illegal land use by-law being driven by the Aceh Provincial Parliament despite being protected by national law.
Credit: Forest, Nature and Environment Aceh (HAkA)

Aceh NGOs call on the European Union to urgently mediate as conflict escalates over Aceh Parliament’s illegal land use plan

[JAKARTA] Deputy Chairman of the Aceh Parliament, Muhammad Tanwir Mahdi, has announced to local media that Aceh Parliament rejected the Ministry of Domestic Affairs’ official evaluation of the Aceh spatial plan by-law (Qanun RTRWA) 2014-2034.

The content of the Aceh spatial plan is highly controversial, and various sources have denounced it as legally invalid. “There are many unanswered legal issues that still surround the issuance of this spatial plan by-law”, Kurniawan, SH, LLM. a legal expert from the University of Syiah Kuala of Banda Aceh, told a full press conference in Jakarta today. “The content of the proposed spatial planning law fails to recognize higher regulations, in particular ‘The Law on Governing Aceh’ (UU 11/2006) and the National Spatial Planning Law, both of which mandate the protection of the Leuser Ecosystem. The current spatial plan is technically invalid and must be revised to have any credibility”,  Kurniawan, concluded.

“We welcome the evaluation that has been conducted by the Ministry of Domestic Affairs and are disappointed that Aceh Parliament has rejected this opportunity to improve the content of the law”, said Walhi Aceh (Friends of the Earth Indonesia) Chairman, Muhammad Nur. “In Aceh we suffer environmental and social problems because of the illegal land clearing from logging and palm oil that is already pushing our protected forests. The Aceh Parliament must recognize the environmental sensitivities of Aceh. Opening the protected forests causes flooding and landslides that create devastation for our people, which will only escalate with poor land use planning. We need a legally compliant spatial plan that includes the protection function of the Leuser Ecosystem. DPRA has failed to do this, and for this reason Walhi Aceh will be pushing a judicial review of the spatial plan on behalf of the community and environment of Aceh”.

“Aceh has been very fortunate to have the support of the world for many years” Said Farwiza, Chairperson of Forest Nature and Environment Aceh. “From 1992 to 2004 Aceh Government worked together with the EU on environmental and social development. We cannot forget the generosity of the world after we suffered the great losses of the 2004 tsunami, for this, I, as an Acehnese woman, will be forever grateful to the people of the world. There was a bitter 30 year civil conflict which ended with the MoU Helsinki, thanks to international facilitation. Aceh made great gains to rebuild thanks to a strong commitment to working together with the central government and international community, however, but now many in Aceh feel as if we have been forgotten, all of the gains we made together are now at risk if we can not urgently work together to find a solution to the rising social and environmental conflict that is now taking place.“


For further information please contact:

Kurniawan, SH, LLM

Legal Academic, University of Syiah Kuala of Banda Aceh



Muhammad Nur

Walhi (Friends of the Earth Indonesia) Aceh Chairman,



[Press Release] Aceh Forests facing numerous threats

21/05/2013 -Press Release For Immediate distribution

Aceh Forests facing numerous threats
“the threats to Aceh forest are not as black and white as one plan”

[BANDA ACEH] “The threats to Aceh forest are not as ‘black and white’ as just one plan.” Explained Rudi Putra, Avaaz petition starter, “Acehs forests are facing numerous threats; illegal permits to open forests are being issued before the spatial plan is even agreed, land status is being downgraded, illegal logging continues, roads are being pushed through protected areas and poaching of protected wildlife continues in the field. The Government continues to push its agenda without transparency or opportunities to discuss the combined impacts of all the threats. Instead it seems to be responding to criticisms one by one, as only minor issues, in an attempt to mask the combined large scale and long term impacts that will result.” He continued.

In this last week over 1.2 million signatures have been added to an international petition calling on Indonesian President SBY and Aceh Governor Zaini to “reject the plan to cut down protected rainforests in Aceh.” Indonesia’s majestic forests are a global treasure, and we encourage engagement with the local community to develop a plan that prioritises sustainable development, and protects this fragile ecosystem and the animals that live there.” (1)

The campaign to protect and restore Aceh’s threatened forests continues to gather international attention after Head of the President’s Delivery Unit for Development, Monitoring & Oversight (UKP-PPP), Kuntoro Mangkusubroto, issued a press release questioning the source for the figures used in the debate. (2)

Rudi Putra added, “Pak Kuntoro is right. I agree that the information of the scale of the threat is drawn from a comparison of the former spatial plan from 2010, that aimed to protect 68% of Aceh’s land cover as forest, and the new plan currently being pushed, that will reduce this area to just 45%. Chairman of the Aceh Parliament’s Spatial Planning Committee made this statement in the Sydney Morning Herald earlier this year (3), and since that time, many media, NGO reports and even company websites have used the same figure.

“What we must focus on here though”, Putra continued, “is the problems already being caused by clearance of Aceh’s forests, and the threats posed by any further destruction and clearing of these forests, which will make things even worse. Even without cutting the forest, natural landslides and flash floods occur in Aceh on a regular basis, and when forests are cleared these disasters occur much more often and are much more severe. This is already impacting the community of Aceh, we should be working to reduce these threats, not to increase them.

“The Leuser Ecosystem is already protected by Law on Governing Aceh, law No 11/2006 and National Spatial Planning Law No 26/2007 and Government Regulation No 26/2008 as a ‘National Strategic Area for its Environmental Protection Function’, meaning that any development within the Leuser Ecosystem that damages its environmental protection function is illegal. Leuser acts as a life support for approximately four million people living around it by providing a steady supply of water, soil fertility, flood control, climate regulation and pest mitigation. The provincial spatial plan for Aceh must comply with existing National Laws protecting the Leuser Ecosystem, you can not simply ignore these laws to open up the forests for logging and mining. We are also extremely concerned about reports that roads are already being built, before any construction permits have even be granted”. Concluded Putra

Over the last few weeks major flooding has seriously impacted many districts of Aceh. Vice-Governor Muzakir Manaf, who visited the affected areas in Aceh Singkil on Thursday 16 May, told Aceh newspapers reporters that “the cause of the flooding is illegal logging and encroachment of forests” (4)

Graham Usher, a Landscape Protection Specialist who was involved in the environmental sensitivity analysis conducted in 2008 as part of the development of the previous Aceh Government’s forestry redesign process, welcomes Pak Kuntoro’s recommendation that a Strategic Environmental Assessment be carried out. “Both our environmental analysis, and a similar exercise carried out by the Asian Development Bank, estimated that between 63% and 68% of Aceh is very sensitive to disturbance, and that maintaining intact primary and restoring degraded forest cover was the best strategy for avoiding future environmental disasters. At the time, our recommendation was that the smart strategy was to expand forest cover, by restoring already degraded areas, ensuring both maintenance of environmental services and guaranteeing safe sources of timber for the future. But now, the key aspect of the new Aceh Government’s spatial plan is how much of these very sensitive areas are to be threatened with expansion of logging, road building, plantations and mining, even if they officially classified as forests. Aceh’s people know very well that any disturbance of forests in these areas results in devastating landslides, floods and complete changes to river systems. I think over 1 million people signed this petition because they share the concerns of Aceh’s people, and because they care about the fate of tigers, elephants, orangutans and rhinos, the incredible biodiversity of Aceh’s forests, and global climate change. If the current Aceh Government is, as it appears to be, determined on reactivating logging concessions in sensitive areas, pushing new roads through intact forests, and breaking up the Leuser Ecosystem, then people are quite right to express their concerns.”

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. (5)

(1) http://avaaz.org/en/the_plan_to_kill_orangutans_loc/?slideshow
(2) http://www.ukp.go.id/siaran-pers/120-tidak-ada-usulan-konversi-hutan-12-juta-hektar-di-provinsi-aceh
(4) http://aceh.tribunnews.com/m/index.php/2013/05/16/wagub-illegal-logging-penyebab-banjir
(5) http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2013/04/30/aceh-performs-worst-forestry-protection-undp.html

For further media comment:

Rudi Putra
+62 813 6088 2455
Avaaz Petition starter

Graham Usher
+62 877 6639 4260
Landscape Protection Specialist

[RELEASE] Over 1 million support worldwide to save Aceh forest.

PRESS RELEASE – 18 May 2013


Jakarta – Today, an astounding progress for the #SaveAceh campaign; over one million have backed a campaign launched by Indonesian conservationist Rudi Putra, urging President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to intervene in the Aceh forest rezoning plan that would put orangutans, rhinos, tigers, elephants and other critically endangered wildlife at risk.

Rudi says “The forests of Aceh, home to endangered Sumatran orangutans and rhinos, are already being decimated by poachers and illegal loggers — but this plan would be truly catastrophic. Right now Aceh is already suffering from environmental disasters, floods are claiming lives and destroy properties along the west coast. The President and Governor need to intervene to stop the deadly landslides and flash floods that a mining and logging free-for-all would let loose on local communities.”

One key area falling under the proposed provincial spatial rezoning plan, is the National Strategic Area for Environmental Protection Function the Leuser Ecosystem, protected under Law 26/2007 and Government Regulation 26/2008, which is home to around 5,800 of the remaining 6000 critically endangered Sumatran orangutans, according to the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme. The Aceh provincial plan seeks to ignore National Spatial planning law 26/2007 Government Regulation 26/2008, resulting in the Leuser Ecosystem losing it’s protected status, which would allow extractive activity such as logging, mining and road building to take place.

Ian Bassin, Campaign Director of Avaaz said: “President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has a choice: to leave a strong legacy of protecting Indonesia’s natural resources or trash his green record by greenlighting this deal. More than 1 million people are urging him to stop the gold miners and loggers from raping Aceh’s forests and wiping out Indonesia’s most iconic wildlife.”

According to Co-Founder of Change.org Indonesia Usman Hamid, over a million signatures for Rudi’s petition in Avaaz.org shows tremendous solidarity from the international community to the #SaveAceh movement to urge the Aceh governor to cancel the destructive spatial planning law.

Canadian company gets heat from Canadians on Aceh deforestation
The rezoning plan, which according to Canada based East Asia Minerals press release, http://www.eaminerals.com/press-releases/229.pdf “would open more than a million hectares of forest in Aceh Province for mining logging and palm oil production” In the same release, the company claims to be working closely with the Government officials to obtain reclassification of ‘protected forest’ to ‘production forests’.

East Asia Minerals applauded the destructive plan for Aceh through a press release which created a strong backlash and a surge of thousands of signatures from Canada through Change.org petition http://www.change.org/SaveAceh showing that it is now a rising issue in Canada as well.

Laura Burden from Burnaby, BC, Canada says “I want my government to stop exploiting other countries and protect our fragile world instead.”

While Fred Oliff from Cambridge, Canada says “Canadian companies operating in foreign countries should be held to the same restrictions they would be in their own country.”

Arief Aziz. +62811195962. arief@change.org

Arief Aziz
Communications Director
arief@change.org | +62811.195.962

Sumatran orangutans’ rainforest home faces new threat

Angela Dewan | AFP

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.

– Rappler.com

Forest for the Trees

Philip Jacobson | Tempo

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.”

Mining company working with Indonesian government to strip forest of protected status

The Guardian UK | 17 April 2013

A Toronto-listed mining company says it is working closely with the Indonesian government to strip the protected status of some 1.6 million hectares forest on the island of Sumatra.

In a statement issued Tuesday, East Asia Minerals Corporation (TSX:EAS) claimed it is actively involved in the process of devising a new spatial plan for Aceh province, Sumatra’s western-most province. The proposed changes to the spatial plan, which governs land use in the province, would re-zone large areas of protected forest in Aceh for industrial activities, including nearly a million hectares for mining, 416,086 ha for logging, and 256,250 ha for for oil palm plantations.

“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 said in a press release announcing the potential implications for its Miwah gold mining project. “Once forestry designation has been reclassified, the company will be granted the ability to continue the drilling program with the goal of expanding the resource at Miwah.”

East Asia Minerals added that it “has implemented a new Corporate Social Responsibility program and hired ex-government officials to help them with these efforts.” It also noted that the length of the reclassification “is primarily due to dealing with a coalition of environmental groups, and NGOs.”

Aceh’s proposed spatial plan has been hotly contested by some environmental groups in Aceh, who say that re-zoning could jeopardize the province’s world-renowned biodiversity, including endangered orangutans, rhinos, tigers, and elephants. Their concerns were echoed last month by a group of biologists and conservation scientists who warned that potential changes to the spatial plan could undermine some of the ecological services that underpin province’s economy and well-being of its citizens.

“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,” stated a declaration issued at the conclusion of the annual meeting held by the Asia chapter of the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation (ATBC). “Forest disruption in Aceh’s upland areas will increase the risk of destructive flooding for people living downstream in the coastal lowlands.”

The group, which is the largest association of tropical conservation scientists, said the plan could hurt Aceh’s food security and exacerbate conflict in a region that suffered from more than a decade of civil strife from the early 1990’s to early 2000’s.
Supporters of the spatial plan revision say it will bring more investment to the province and boost industrial commodity production.

East Asia Minerals has gold, silver, and copper mining operations in Aceh and North Sulawesi. In 2011 it purchased half of Carbon Conservation, a forest carbon project developer that aimed to capitalize on carbon credits generated under the proposed Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+) program before foundering due to slow market conditions.

East Asia Minerals had a market capitalization of $18 million as of April 16, 2013, down from a 52-week high of $48 million in May 2012.


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?