Less than two weeks after a moratorium on forest clearing, Indonesia has lost protected forest the size of Singapore that was awarded to palm oil planters and forest concession holders, a report by Greenomics Indonesia says.
To make matters worse, the shifting status of primary forest is located in Central Kalimantan, which was appointed a pilot project site — a place other provinces will observe for how to execute President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s order to halt issuing new permits to raze forests in the country for two years.
Greenomics said Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan was the first official to ignore the President’s order.
Zulkifli made a decree, the report said, that converted the status of 81,490 hectares of conservation area into production forests.
The converted forests were in, among others, Tanjung Puting National Park and Sebangau National Park in Central Kalimantan.
“Zulkifli’s decree comes only 11 days after the start of the forest moratorium [by President Yudhoyono],” Greenomics’ executive director Elfian Effendi told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday.
President Yudhoyono issued a two-year moratorium on new permits both in primary forest and peatland on May 20. Protected forest and conservation areas are part of primary forests.
The 1999 Forestry Law also prohibits the conversion of protected forest and conservation areas for business interests.
“The Forestry Ministry should actually stay on the front line to protect primary forest with or without President Yudhoyono’s decree on the moratorium. Thus, sanctions should be imposed on violators [of the moratorium] as pledged by [Cabinet Secretary] Dipo Alam,” he said.
Central Kalimantan has 1.3 million hectares of protected forests and 1.5 million hectares of conservation areas.
A map of the forest moratorium sites included all the protected and conservation areas where new permits should be banned. The President’s moratorium is part of the implementation of the REDD partnership between Indonesia and Norway.
Norway pledged US$1 billion to Indonesia to implement a UN plan called Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD Plus).
“The change of function of protected and conservation forests to become production forests by [Zulkifli] could damage the credibility of the moratorium decree in the international arena,” he said.
Forestry Ministry spokeperson Masy’hud denied that the minster had changed the status for 81,490 hectares of protected forest and conservation areas.
“It is part of the long-discussed proposal of Central Kalimantan related to the province’s spatial planning. The integrated team consisting of officials from a number of institutions verified the proposal and submitted its final recommendation to the Forestry Ministry to decide,” he told The Jakarta Post.
“The spatial planning of Central Kalimantan is now still waiting the approval of the House of Representatives.”
The President’s special staff on climate change, Agus Purnomo, promised it would investigate Greenomics’ report.
“If Greenomic’s finding is true, there should be a sanction for [violators] of the Presidential decree. But, if the accusation is false, it is Greenomics itself then should take responsibility for the report,” he told the Post.
Agus said he had received the report from Greenomics.