Indonesian Civil Society Calls On Government For Transparency And Accountability to Protect and Restore Peatlands and Forests (2018)

AURIGA -  We support the Government of Indonesia taking strong steps to protect and restore Indonesia’s peatlands, including policies to stop the conversion of peatlands into industrial timber plantations (Hutan Tanaman Industri, HTI). These plantation areas account for 2.1 million hectares, or 16% of the total 12.9 million hectares of priority peatlands that the Government targets to restore.

However, the undersigned civil society organizations (CSOs) are concerned with the Government’s “land swap” policy, which allocates new HTI concessions on mineral soils as compensation to forestry companies whose lands will be affected by the initiative to protect and restore priority peatlands. This policy endangers Indonesia’s remaining natural forests (see accompanying spatial analysis) and may cause even more conflicts with customary/local communities than already exist.

The land swap policy is defined in the Minister of Environment and Forestry’s Decree Number 40 of 2017, issued in July of last year, and the Ministry is now preparing to approve a total of 921,230 hectares for land swaps. However, the determination of these areas has been carried out without transparency or public input.

We fear that vast areas of natural forest, especially in Kalimantan, Sumatra, and Papua will be designated for land swaps and converted into pulpwood plantations in the name of peatland restoration. Though no longer intact, often these forests are still functioning ecosystems that are important to global climate change and as habitat for biodiversity. The policy will also threaten the livelihoods and cultures of indigenous peoples who for many generations have depended on forests in their local areas.

The Government policy does not provide a specific timeframe or plan to restore the degraded peatlands. The policy should make a condition for land swaps that companies are required to first restore the peatlands and have the results approved by the Government. Without this provision, abandoned areas may be vulnerable to catastrophic fires.