Indonesian President Joko Widodo has extended a government moratorium on the clearing of forests for commercial activities, but stopped short of incorporating improvements to strengthen it.
This is the second time the moratorium was renewed since it was first signed in May 2011 as part of a larger goal of reducing deforestation and curbing carbon emissions.
The Environment and Forestry Ministry said in a statement the moratorium was renewed as it was due to expire yesterday.
The ministry said it would be taking in the suggestions submitted by businesses, green groups and related government agencies before issuing measures that will strengthen implementation and deterrence. "We need to hold further intensive inter-departmental or cross-ministry meetings, as well as with all stakeholders involved... before we make modifications," the statement said.
Green groups that have made recommendations included the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi), Forest Watch and the World Resources Institute (WRI).
Indonesia is the world's largest exporter of palm oil and a major exporter of pulp and paper.
In the past two decades, deforestation rates have spiked on the back of a commodities boom, resulting in an uphill battle to protect the environment against widespread land-clearing to grow food, harvest timber and create mines.
Former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono signed a moratorium in 2011 with a pledge to slow deforestation and curb carbon emissions by 26 per cent of present levels by 2020, or by 41 per cent with international help.
Though deforestation rates have shrunk, violations still occur because of weak enforcement in a corruption-riddled sector.
Last year, about 30 per cent of fire hot spots in Sumatra's Riau province were detected on land protected by the moratorium.
The Deputy Minister for Environmental Degradation Control and Climate Change, Mr Arief Yuwono, told a forum in Singapore yesterday that his government is not relying only on the moratorium to curb illegal land clearing.
His ministry wants to see the One Map policy - a single map of land use agreed and referred to by all parties - continue and is working on enhancing it to a detailed scale.
"This may take two to three years to complete, but we want to speed it up because it can be used as the basis for the moratorium," he told participants at the 2nd Singapore Dialogue on Sustainable World Resources, organised by the Singapore Institute of International Affairs.
Mr Arief also said Indonesia was keen to host the ASEAN Coordinating Centre on Transboundary Haze Pollution Control to show its commitment to fighting forest fires.
In Indonesia, forest campaigners urge the government not to delay the needed improvements.
Walhi campaign manager Zenzi Suhadi noted there was no longer any agency in charge of monitoring the implementation of the moratorium. Two related agencies under the previous administration were dissolved after the new government took over.
A joint field research trip conducted by the WRI, together with the Puter Foundation and Indonesian NGOs, found that some local leaders did not know which areas were covered by the moratorium.
This article was first published on May 14, 2015.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.