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Jakarta Post

Govt lacks legal basis to curb deforestation

  • Haeril Halim

    The Jakarta Post

Pekanbaru, Riau   /   Mon, May 4, 2015   /  01:18 pm

An international environmental forum has found that Indonesia still lacks the necessary legal basis to support zero-deforestation commitments.

Law No.39/2014 on plantations, for instance, requires palm oil companies to use all their permitted land to plant oil palms, leaving them unable to allocate any of their land for conservation purposes.

'€œThis regulation is against the deforestation-free commitments. For example, if a company decides not to plant palm oil trees in 10 percent of its 10,000 hectares of permitted land to reduce carbon, then the 10 percent will be taken back by the government because it considers it abandoned land,'€ said Tiur Rumondang of the Indonesian Business Council for Sustainable Development (IBCSD) during a forum discussing deforestation in Pekanbaru over the weekend.

This situation posed a dilemma to business sector actors, Tiur said, because environmental NGOs and the international markets urged them to comply with sustainable practices but at the same time they had no legal certainty to support their deforestation-free commitments.

'€œThe government should minimize all regulations that could hamper zero-deforestation commitments,'€ she added.

The Riau forum, attended by representatives of the Riau administration, local and international NGOs and agroforestry companies operating in the province, urged President Joko '€œJokowi'€ Widodo administration to issue a ministerial regulation to act as a legal umbrella for the zero-deforestation commitments.

'€œAlso, we currently have no operational-scale-based spatial database or map to identify indigenous communities or conflicts between local communities and companies. All stakeholders should work together to push the government to complete the spatial planning,'€ said Andika Putraditama of World Resources Institute (WRI).

Gary W. Dunning, executive director of The Forests Dialogue at Yale University, said there was as yet no effective cooperation between the government, NGOs and corporations, as well as small holders, to eradicate deforestation because of the lack of common view of what zero-deforestation efforts entail.

'€œI think collaboration with all stakeholders, including the government, is the strongest thing that I could suggest in this case,'€ Dunning said, adding that financial institutions should also consider requiring agriculture companies to comply with zero-deforestation principles when deciding whether to finance any forestry-related products.

Dunning further said that large corporations were not the only ones responsible for deforestation in Indonesia, with small stakeholders such as farmers also encroaching and cutting down trees in conservation areas.

Many tribal groups in Riau, including the Sakai community, suffered loss of livelihood after the government issued permits to pulp and paper and palm oil companies in the province. The groups are then prosecuted as illegal loggers if they cut down trees and farm in those areas.

Ejondri, the protection manager of pulp and paper company PT Arara Abadi, which controls around 260,000 hectares of land in Riau, said that the company had provided around 500 hectares of land to relocate the community, but '€œthey keep coming to demand payment and replacement land after selling the initial land'€.

Johnny Lagawurin of the Riau conservation agency said the deforestation-free concept should be forward-looking rather than retrospective, adding that massive illegal expansion of companies into Riau'€™s 600,000 conservation forest had threatened the lives of wildlife such as elephants.

'€œThe government should map the remaining conservation area. After that there should be no more deforestation and no more permits issued to companies,'€ Johnny said.

It is reported that between 2000 and 2012, primary forest losses in Indonesia totaled 6.02 million hectares from clearing of pulp plantations and oil palm estates. Meanwhile, in 2012, Indonesia, home to roughly as much forest as the Amazon, lost around 840,000 hectares of its primary forest, compared with around 460.000 hectares in Brazil

In addition to Riau, massive deforestation has also occurred in Kalimantan and Papua.

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