Peat Protection No Reason For Destroying Natural Forest: “Land swap” policy risks deforestation from Aceh to Papua (2019)

AURIGA -  The Government of Indonesia appears to be planning deforestation as a result of its peatlands protection initiative, according to an analysis by the Koalisi Anti Mafia Hutan of the Government’s land swap policy. The land swap policy is intended to compensate timber plantation concessions (Hutan Tanaman Industri, or HTI) impacted by Government-mandated peat restoration. The peatlands protection efforts aim to prevent disastrous fires as occurred in 2015.

As ordered by the Minister of Environment and Forestry’s Regulation P.40/2017 on Government Facilitation of Industrial Timber Plantations in the Framework of Protection and Management of Peat Ecosystems,1 land swaps are to be granted to HTI license holders with concessions on which 40% or more of the plantation work area is designated as protected peat ecosystems. From 12.94 million hectares of priority peat restoration areas designated by Indonesia’s Peat Restoration Agency (Badan Restorasi Gambut, or BRG), 2.15 million hectares, or 16% of the total area, are HTI concessions – of which 216,044 experienced disastrous fires in 2015.

The land swap allocation map is contained in the Appendix of Directive Decree of the Minister of Environment and Forestry SK. 4732/MenLHK-PHPL/KPHP/HPL.0/9/2017 on Indicative Maps of Unfulfilled Production Forest Utilization for Forest Utilization Enterprises (hereafter referred to as SK 4732)3 published on the Ministry’s website. Although the land swap allocation map’s scale is small (1:500,000) and does not meet the Geospatial Information Agency’s requirements for operational maps , the Koalisi Anti Mafia Hutan has conducted spatial analysis and found that from the total land swap allocation of 921,230 hectares, 362,390 hectares, or 40%, is primary or secondary forest.

The allocations for land swaps are spread across most of Indonesia’s big islands (except Java), including Sumatra, Kalimantan, Sulawesi, Maluku, Nusa Tenggara, and Papua. Table 1 (below) shows the provinces where the allocations for land swap are located and the extent of forest cover in each province that is threatened by this policy. Of the 19 provinces containing allocations for land swaps, allocations in only five provinces (West Sumatra, Riau, South Sumatra, West Nusa Tenggara, and Central Sulawesi) do not contain natural forests. However, the area allocated for land swaps in those five provinces is relatively small, i.e. 36,070 hectares, or 3% of the overall allocation.