The Palm Scribe

Indonesia’s One Map Policy and the palm oil business

Indonesia’s One Map Policy, aimed at creating a single public portal containing synchronized, digitalized data and information on land use, coverage, boundaries, conscessions and a host of other thematic layers, offer obvious benefits but resistance has been strong, among the bureaucracy as well as among concession holders, including in the palm oil sector.

Besides of using uniform standards, references and data, across government ministries and institutions at both the national and local levels, a One Map policy would assure accurate, synchronized, responsible and accessible digitalized geospatial data and information.

It would provide transparency in land ownership, coverage or potentials  or coverage across the country and thus be useful in providing clarity for investment, taxation and environmental supervision, reduce the potential for conflict over land issues and also  effectively help in stopping illegal deforestation in the country and provide a strong base for informed public policy making.

The Geospatial Information Agency (Badan Informasi Geospasial, or BIG) was assigned as the only agency authorized to provide the country’s base map or Basic Geospatial Information.

At present, there are a plethora of conflicting maps issued by different government institutions and regional governments. Each uses their own standards, scales and references making synchronizing the maps almost impossible.

The problem is further aggravated not only by decades of bad land management practices but also by the lack of transparency from most forest or land concession holders, who have it in their interest to prevent details of their concession maps from becoming public, said Nabiha Shahab, an independent researcher currently attached to the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).

“This question of transparency in information is currently in a legal process. Courts have ruled that data regarding HGU (Cultivation Rights Title) be made accessible to the public, but the government has yet to do so,” said Shahab who is also taking the One Map Policy as her current thesis at Universitas Indonesia.

Forest Watch Indonesia (FWI) filed a challenge to the Public Information Committee (KIP) asking for the ministry for agrarian affairs/ National Land Agency to open up HGU data to the public in December 2015 arguing that the data was needed for analytical research on land disputes for preparing recommendations for the government.

“But it has now been six months since the appeal verdict of the Supreme Court, and we still have not progressed from the part of the Ministry of Agrarian Affairs. They still argue that it is still being discussed internally,” said Linda Rosalinda, a campaigner on information openness with Forest Watch Indonesia.

Rosalinda said that FWI had now filed a litigation complaint to the Ombudsman Office and should that also fail, the organization planned to file a report to the police for non-compliance to the law.

She said that although she had no certain knowledge why plantation companies were opposed to make the HGU document public, she speculated that many of the companies, including in the palm oil sector, even those who holding ISPO sustainability certification, still had problems on the fields.

She cited problems of deforestation, illegal logging, encroaching on land with high conservation values or peatland, land and forest fires, and others.

Indonesian Association of Palm Oil Producers (GAPKI) Chairman Joko Supriyanto has argued that the HGU document should be a private company document, much similar to a corporate bank account.

Supriyanto, or his secretary general Togar Sitanggang, have yet to answer queries sent to them but Supriyanto was quoted by the media as arguing that providing access to the public to the HGU documents in the palm oil sector will lead to unrest and disputes linked to land data.

“The entrepreneurs would not be able to focus on their business, there will be protests and this will come under public scrutiny and will lead to restlessness,” Supriyono told Katadata. He added that the documents should only be made accessible for special reasons only, such as for a legal investigation.

“The HGU document is very sensitive. If opened (to the public) it would be like stripping off Indonesia and this will harm macroeconomic stability,” Supriyanto said.

Abdul Kamarzuki, an expert staff at the coordinating ministry for the economy,  was quoted by Kompas daily earlier this month as saying that the sharing of geospatial data will be arranged through a protocol contained in a regulation to be soon issued by the Coordinating Minister for the Economy.

Under a current draft of the regulation, HGU data for plantation, for example, would be opened to the public but the ownership of the rights can remain unrevealed, he said.

BIG Deputy for Thematic Geospatial Information, Nurwadjedi, in a short text message, said that the HGU ownership data “are indeed secrets, in line with the rules of the head (or BIG).” He declined to elaborate further.

The absence of a single map to use in responding to the devastating fires, for example, makes it hard to pinpoint on whose land fires burned and thus makes it difficult to hold anyone accountable. The same case faces efforts to respond to illegal deforestation and logging, including of areas with high conservation values.

Presidential Regulation number 9 of 2016 of February 2, 2016, sets the largest scale of the maps under the One Map Policy at 1:50,000.

Shahab said that the 1:50,000 scale was much too small because many planning maps required more detailed scales. She pointed to the map for a detailed space zoning plan, as well as for certification under the Agrarian  Reforms which necessitated maps with a scale of at least 1:5,000. Village maps even needed scales of 1:2,500 and even 1:1,000.

The One Map Police encourages all sides concerned, especially 19 state ministries and institutions concerned, to prepare thematic maps based on basic geospatial information issued by BIG. These thematic maps, in theory, could be accessed through BIG’s Indonesia Geoportal but up until now, this exchange of information has yet to take place. Institutions are hindered by the state policy on non-tax revenues which prohibits giving data to other sides for free. A number of data of a secretive nature cannot also be made public.

However, by mid-August, geospatial information or the base map for Indonesia could already be accessed for free through the portal managed by BIG.  Adi Rusmanto, the deputy for infrastructure of geospatial information at BIG, said that this was made possible after the finance ministry agreed to tag those data as being of  “zero rupiah” in value.

The immense amount of difficulties to get a single map at the national level has now changed the approach of BIG which now deals with one region at a time, starting with regions where the most deforestation is taking place, or where fires sources are abundant, or with many land-related conflicts.

BIG is starting with mapping Kalimantan and this would be followed by Sumatra and Sulawesi, Papua and the Moluccas, and last will be Java and the Lesser Sunda Islands, according to Indonesia’s spatial data portal.

“Conflicts in the determination of areal boundaries and thematic mapping are difficult to solve because of strong sectoral ego. In the thematic mapping, customary land rights are not yet accommodated and village maps are still minimal and sporadic in many regions,” Nurwadjedi said on September 12, 2017 to Kompas.

With public access to the One Map Policy products, including maps with clear delineation of concessions, people would be able to help supervise and monitor the permits to manage and make use of natural resources.

Having One Map at the regional and national level will also enable a much better understanding of which companies are making positive progress in sustainability managing forests and plantations, and which ones are not and thus encouraging the entire industry to attain a higher, more sustainable standards.

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