President Joko Widodo has signed a permanent moratorium on forest-clearing for plantations and logging, as announced by the Forestry and Environment Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar earlier this month.
“The president signed an instruction on stopping new permits and improving primary forest and peatland governance,” Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar said in a statement as quoted by media. Bakar said the August 5 presidential instruction (Inpres) mandated that ministers, governors and other officials could not issue new permits within the moratorium area.
The moratorium published under former President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (Inpres, Number 10 of 2011) is called as ‘The postponement of issuance of new licenses and improving, governance of primary natural forest and peatland’, a move that was part of cooperation with Norway to meet Indonesia’s voluntary commitment to reduce emission effectively meant a two-year moratorium on new forest concession licenses.
It gave instructions to three ministers — Forestry, Home Affairs and Environment– and the heads of five agencies –Presidential Delivery Unit for Development Oversight, National Land Agency, National Coordination Agency for Spatial Planning, National Coordination Agency for Survey and Mapping and the proposed agency to manage REDD+, as well as governors and heads of district governments. Two important ministries closely related to deforestation and associated land-based emissions are not included — Agriculture and Energy and Mineral Resources.
The presidential instruction has since been extended in 2013, 2015, 2017, and expired on July 17 this year.
“We applaud the government’s decision to make the moratorium permanent in order to safeguard primary forests, conservation, and protected areas. Unfortunately, it misses the areas where most of the deforestation is still happening, which is the secondary forest.” Elis Widen from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) told The Palm Scribe.
A group of environmental activists has been calling for the moratorium to not only be made permanent but also be given a firmer legal base.
“We deem that the presidential instruction has not been effective enough as a legal instrument, because there is no enforcement,” Lola Abbas, National Coordinator for Pantau Gambut (Peat Monitoring) told journalists at a discussion in Jakarta in mid of July.
“The hope is, that besides having its legal foundation strengthened by becoming a presidential regulation so that it becomes binding for all, supervision (of its application) should also be upheld,” said Teguh Surya, Executive Director of the Yayasan Madani Berkelanjutan (Sustainable Civil Society Foundation) at the same discussion.
Zenzi Suhadi from Indonesia’s Friends of the Earth (WALHI) said since 2011 there have been concessions released for forested areas totaling 18 million hectares, showing that despite the moratorium, enforcement was weak.
“It is not enough to have the moratorium as a presidential instruction, If we really want to save forests…it should have a regulatory nature, with a legal validity that not only binds the government but also provides a legal umbrella,” Zensi said.
Activists urged that the permanent moratorium should also deal with the problems plaguing the previous moratorium, which include the failure to include secondary forests and logged-over forests in the moratorium represent a lost opportunity to protect a fraction of the country carbon and biodiversity-rich forests.
The permanent moratorium decision comes after local authorities declared an emergency in six provinces on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo where smoke from forest fires have started causing problems for local citizens.