Deforestation-related debates in Indonesia have been going on for quite some time, and some experts point to the diversity of spatial data and definitions as one of the main causes.
World Resources Institute (WRI) Indonesia Climate and Forests Senior Manager Arif Wijaya said that each party has been using different data on forest and deforestation coverage, as well as different satellite image classification methods.
SPOT, LANDSAT, ASTER, IKONOS, and QUICKBIRD satellites can be used to have visual imagery of Earth.
Wijaya also pointed out that there are still problems with defining forests in Indonesia. The definition, according to the law and the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, is considered to be ambiguous.
“According to WRI, forests are natural areas that have not been converted. The deforestation process must have happened first before the forests disappear and replaced by HTI,” he said in a public discussion at the WRI office.
The ambiguity of the definition, according to Wijaya, is an obstacle in mapping the level of deforestation in Indonesia. He hopes that in the future, technological advances can create open data and support the ability to view these data in real time will facilitate mapping of deforestation.
Greenpeace Indonesia’s representative, Arie Rompas, also emphasized the importance of spatial data or Geographic Information System (GIS) data openness for the general public.
“Yes, it is important as the public can help monitor deforestation, illegal logging, and others,” said Rompas.
Greenpeace Indonesia is trying to make this happen, Rompas said, but the process was hampered by various policies.
“We are trying, but procedurally our requests have not met with the government,” he said.
“For example, the Geospatial Law from KLHK (Ministry of Environment and Forestry) is still difficult, because the government is afraid of the unfair business competition risk,” Rompas said, adding that factors of data misuse and restrictions on public access need further study.
Rompas believes that the process by Greenpeace is supported by the government. “The basic government as a state organizer must provide these data to the wider community, the role of civilians here is to monitor and strengthen the government itself, so not to blame each other,” he said.
“Journalists “turn on” the data and look for factual causes so that the public can read the data like reading stories,” said Widyanto, who was once a member of the Supervisory Board of the Society of Indonesian Environmental Journalist (SIEJ).
Widyanto also explained the irony of environmental issues in Indonesia, that is, the lack of attention of the young generation to this issue. “Yes, environment issues are still considered minor issues in Indonesia. Take a look at how many media which have special environmental columns. Just a few, right? It can be seen from there,” he said.
Currently, WRI Indonesia is developing spatial data that can be accessed by anyone through the Global Forest Watch internet page, an interactive platform to monitor and receive warnings about what happens in the forest directly whose data comes from WRI itself.
Through this platform, it is expected that there will be an increase in active participation, awareness, and knowledge of the community about the environment, especially among the young generation of Indonesia.