Indonesia's latest logging ban leaves forests at risk: Experts

Indonesia's latest logging ban leaves forests at risk: Experts
A belt of protected forest in Sumber Jaya village. Environmentalists say protected areas are still being cleared because of weak monitoring and enforcement of the law.
PHOTO: ST

JAKARTA- Indonesia's recent renewal of a ban on new logging permits will not be enough to curb pressures on its forests without stronger enforcement on the ground, researchers and activists say.

A new presidential instruction, signed by President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) last month, prevents new licenses being granted for a further two years, and is almost identical to the previous moratorium.

Greenpeace Indonesia had warned that unless the moratorium was strengthened, at least 12.5 million hectares (30.9 million acres) of primary forest and peatland outside conservation and protected areas could potentially be deforested. "It shows that Jokowi's administration has lost its focus and has no clear direction in protecting forests and peatlands, and improving forest management," said Teguh Surya, a forest campaigner with Greenpeace Indonesia.

Hasbi Berliani, a programme manager with Kemitraan (Partnership), a Jakarta-based organisation working on governance reform, said time pressure had made it difficult to bolster the moratorium. "If the government had insisted on upgrading it, then it might not have been signed in time. They couldn't risk a lapse,"said Berliani.

Indonesia is the world's third largest emitter of greenhouse gases, largely due to massive forest and peatland fires which account for around 80 percent of those emissions, according to the newly formed Ministry of Environment and Forestry.

Nirarta Samadhi, director of the World Resources Institute (WRI) Indonesia, said if the government had not extended the ban, it would have been a step backwards for natural resource governance. "We would likely have seen a rush to exploit Indonesia's forests," said Samadhi.

While the extension shows bold leadership by Jokowi's administration, the moratorium would be more effective if the government could increase local awareness and understanding of the policy, close loopholes and improve governance of forests, he added.

MIXED RESULTS

The Ministry of Environment and Forestry has also released an updated map showing areas included in the moratorium.

The latest version of the map, revised every six months since 2011, includes an additional 926,030 hectares of land, pushing the total covered to just over 65 million. In previous revisions, the moratorium area had shrunk.

It rose this time because some logging permits had expired, and others were revoked due to violations on the ground, according to Minister of Environment and Forestry Siti Nurbaya.

Researchers said the results from implementation of the ban over the past four years were mixed.

According to a recent analysis conducted by WRI and the Center for Global Development, the moratorium reduced Indonesia's emissions from forest clearing by 1 to 2.5 percent over the period. "This two-year extension is predicted to double the emissions reductions. And a moratorium over a 10-year period could reduce emissions by a full 2.5 to 6.4 percent," said Fred Stolle of WRI's Global Forest Programme.

However, an analysis conducted by Walhi (Indonesian Forum for the Environment) and Partnership showed that nearly 1 million hectares of natural forest and peatlands were excluded from the moratorium in four provinces: Riau, Jambi, South Sumatra and Central Kalimantan.

Researchers said this could be linked to local elections in which candidates promised to issue logging permits if they won.

Nengah Surati Jaya, a forestry expert with the Bogor Agriculture Institute, said the areas covered by the moratorium should be reviewed because 60 percent of the land is protected anyway.

Partnership's Berliani called for more transparency surrounding changes to the map as they could be exploited as a trigger for issuing logging permits. "We found in some cases that permits were being issued immediately after (land) was excluded from the moratorium. It has become a new opportunity to issue permits," he said.

PUSH TO IMPROVE

Minister Nurbaya promised that forest regulation would be strengthened after listening to the concerns of environmental experts. "President Jokowi considers this moratorium as very important and gives his commitment, there is no doubt. What is important to me is how we're going to implement this more on the ground," he said.

Three things are needed, Berliani said: monitoring, indicators to measure implementation, and better coordination with regional governments.

The Ministry of Environment and Forestry will play a strategic role, he added. "With (its) newly established directorate general on climate change, I hope they can immediately start strengthening the moratorium," he added.

WRI's Stolle urged open and transparent processes for permit issuance, based on accurate information about forest cover, land tenure and local issues. "Communities should make an inventory and map their lands,"he said. "This could help them think about the potential costs and benefits of new development, and prepare them for negotiations with companies that want to develop (their land)."

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