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Jakarta Post

Regulation readied to restrict slash-and-burn practices

  • Hans Nicholas Jong

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Wed, November 4, 2015   /  05:05 pm

The government plans to revise regulations related to the forestry sector in a bid to put an end to the annual forest fires that have put the lives of millions of people at risk.

The Environment and Forestry Ministry said on Tuesday that the government was considering including provisions in some laws that would put more emphasis on sustainable land clearing and management practices in addition to restricting slash-and-burn practices.

'€œWe are looking for input from multiple parties before we issue a ministerial regulation replacing the law. This draft will fix or reconsider Article 69 [of Law No. 32/2009], which allows people to clear land by burning up to 2 hectares based on local practices,'€ the ministry'€™s secretary-general, Bambang Hendroyono, said during a coordinating meeting on forest fires with local government officials in Jakarta on Tuesday.

The stipulation has been abused by local farmers as well as big firms engaged in slash-and-burn practices.

In the planned revision, the government will forbid all slash-and-burn practices on peatlands even if those practices clock in under 2 hectares and have been practiced locally for decades.

'€œThe point is to protect peatlands from any kind of slash-and-burn practice,'€ Bambang said. '€œEven if the peatlands are located in secondary forests, not primary forests, they are still off-limits.'€

He said that all slash-and-burn practices would be banned during the dry season, both in peatland and non-peatland areas.

Furthermore, the government will also make it illegal for anyone to build canals to dry out the surface of peatland. Such a process tends to make peatland more combustible.

The planned ministerial regulation follows President Joko '€œJokowi'€ Widodo'€™s instruction to revamp the country'€™s forestry sector on the back of the annual forest fires, which reached catastrophic levels this year because of the El Niño weather phenomenon.

'€œThere has been a presidential instruction. We will use it as a role model [for the ministerial regulation],'€ Bambang said.

He said such a ministerial regulation was badly needed because the rainy season this year was predicted to last only until January 2016.

'€œEven though it'€™s already raining now, we are racing against time again. There'€™s a high chance that El Niño will come again [next year]. According to the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency [BMKG], the dry season will come again in February next year, which means that we only have November, December and January [to prepare for the next dry season],'€ said Bambang.

Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar, meanwhile, said the government had not decided whether there would be a direct stipulation in the new ministerial regulation banning local farmers from conducting slash-and-burn practices.

'€œIt looks like [the restriction] is a done deal. But we don'€™t know yet [what kind of regulations we will use],'€ she said on Tuesday, arguing that all parties wanted the slash-and-burn practices to be further restricted.

Besides that, Siti said that the government was also preparing technical guidelines for regional governments on how to implement sustainable land and forestry management and cultivation.

The document will include guidelines for damage recovery after land and forest fires, managing burned-up forest areas, identifying damage and managing peatland ecosystems.

'€œThe document will be ready later this month,'€ Siti said.

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