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Jakarta Post

Google map should be used to challenge official claims

  • Nadya Natahadibrata

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Tue, November 19, 2013   /  10:13 am

The first high-resolution global forest cover on Google Earth should be used as a tool to revive discussion over the country'€™s actual forest coverage and borders, environmentalists say.

'€œThe government has never disclosed the methodology they use to calculate the annual number of total forest loss in the country, which according to them is only around 450,000 hectares,'€ Avi Mahaningtyas, adviser to the Climate and Land Use Alliance, said on Monday.

'€œThis map opens the opportunity to clarify how many hectares of forest we have actually lost.'€

As previously reported, a team of researchers from 15 universities '€” led by the University of Maryland and assisted by Google and NASA '€” published a study in Science Magazine, saying that of all countries, Indonesia, according to the Google forest map, had the largest increase of deforestation between 2000 and 2012.

The country'€™s deforestation doubled from around 10,000 square kilometers (1 million hectares) per year between 2000 and 2003 to around 20,000 square kilometers of deforestation per year between 2011 and 2012. Indonesia, according to the study, lost 15.8 million hectares in total between 2000 and 2012, ranking fifth behind Russia, Brazil, the United States and Canada in terms of forest loss.

The government has dismissed the study, saying that the country only lost 450,000 hectares annually. '€œThe scientists only look at satellite images of areas where logging activities are taking place, without putting the country'€™s temporary deforestation into consideration,'€ Forestry Ministry secretary-general Hadi Daryanto said.

Avi went on to say that the map could be used to map customary forests in the country as many local administrations are still failing to determine the boundaries for such forests, which should be protected following a Constitutional Court ruling in May that rendered the government'€™s ownership of customary forests void.

'€œThe beauty of this Google forest map lies in the fact that we have to check its accuracy. We can involve the researchers and the people who claimed to have the rights of the land, in a hope that it can help mitigate conflicts,'€ Avi said.

The massive deforestation in the country has long been a source of conflicts between indigenous people, businesses, regional administration and central government, due to the unavailability of the single map, according to the environmentalists.

In May, the Constitutional Court scrapped the word '€œstate'€ from Article 1 of the 1999 Forestry Law, which says, '€œCustomary forests are state forests located in the areas of custom-based communities.'€ In theory, businesses that want to convert custom-based land must seek permission from the community first.

Kasmita Widodo, the head of National Participatory Mapping Working Network (JKPP), said that the network along with indigenous people across the country have mapped out millions of hectares of customary forest, however none of those areas have yet been included within the regional spatial planning (RTRW).

 '€œThe participative map is necessary to be used as a counter-mapping to show the government the borders of the claimed customary forest, because these people have no land certificates despite their historical links to the land,'€ Kasmita said.

'€œHowever, most regional administrations are still reluctant to recognize the participative map that was formed by the people, even though it took a enormous effort to be finished,'€ he continued.

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