The Jakarta Post
After being heavily criticized for failing to improve on the moratorium on new concession permits for primary forests and peat lands, the government is set to remedy the weaknesses of the current moratorium, which was extended by President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo last month.
The Environment and Forestry Ministry acknowledged that the current moratorium still had many flaws that prevented it from slowing the ongoing deforestation in the country,
'Because it is just an extension, [we] could not insert new articles. If we included new articles, then the name [of the moratorium] would change, it would not be an extension,' Ruandha Agung Sugardiman, the ministry's director general of forestry planning and environmental governance, told The Jakarta Post on Friday.
Ruandha added that the ministry did not have much time to produce a new draft of the current moratorium as it would involve talking to ministries.
The current moratorium, like the previous two moratoriums enacted during the administration of president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, takes the form of a presidential instruction (Inpres), which means it is only binding on the current administration.
The ministry is mulling a change to the legal basis of the moratorium to a government regulation (PP) after it concludes revising the moratorium map for the ninth time in November this year, according to Ruandha.
The moratorium map underwent its eighth revision recently by including an additional 926,030 hectares, bringing the total area covered by the current moratorium to 65.02 million hectares.
'One of the reasons why the covered area is growing in size is because there were some uncovered areas where the permits already expired and after we analyzed them we found they were primary forest,' Ruandha said.
The covered area could also decrease in size after the ministry crosschecks the map with data from regional governments, during which they will find out whether covered areas should be removed. Although the ministry has revised the map eight times, it has only increased the size of covered area twice.
Based on the previous moratorium map, at least 48.5 million hectares of forest ' over three times the area of Java ' remains under threat.
This includes 16.5 million hectares of primary forest and peat land that are excluded from the moratorium map or located inside the moratorium area, but which are already covered by existing undeveloped concessions and therefore not protected by the moratorium rules.
The remaining 32 million hectares are under threat because, despite consisting of areas considered as natural forest, they have been subject to commercial use, for example through selective logging, and are now classified as 'secondary forest' and so not covered by the current moratorium.
Conservationists have long argued that the moratorium should also cover secondary forest.
'Secondary forest should have been included in the moratorium. The analogy is like forcing sick people to work, with secondary forest being 'sick'. In the moratorium, ailing areas are forced to produce,' Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) forest campaigner Zenzi Suhadi told the Post on Friday.
Ruandha said the ministry was well aware of the fact that one of the reasons why deforestation was still ongoing in the country was because companies simply shifted their operation from primary forest and peat land to secondary forest.
'We are studying [the feasibility of including secondary forest in the moratorium]. If secondary forest is also covered in the moratorium, it means that there will be no more production area while at the same time there is a demand for us to increase production,' he said.
'The priority of the moratorium should be to return to the primary functions of forest. We do that by revoking permits [of firms] that cause environmental destruction,' he said.
Furthermore, the government should have prioritized giving forest permits to local people, as Jokowi's campaign pledge, known as the Nawacita program, promised 12.7 million hectares of forest for local people, currently, the moratorium mainly benefitted private companies, said Zenzi.
Sugarcane plantations for instance are exempt from the moratorium.
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