7.5 million ha of Indonesian forest slated for clearing

/ Mongabay.com

7.5 million hectares of natural forest will escape Indonesia's planned moratorium on new forestry concessions, according to a new report from Greenomics Indonesia, an activist group.

7.5 million hectares of natural forest will escape Indonesia’s planned moratorium on new forestry concessions, according to a new report from Greenomics Indonesia, an activist group.

Under its billion dollar forest conservation partnership with Norway, Indonesia committed to establish a moratorium on new concessions in forest areas and peatlands beginning January 1, 2011. But Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has yet to sign the decree due to debate over the details of what types of forest will be exempted. Presently two versions of the decree are circulating. The one drafted by the country’s REDD+ Taskforce, chaired by Kuntoro Mangkusubroto, is considerably stronger than one prepared by the Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Hatta Rajasa.

Elfian Effendi, Executive Director of Greenomics, says the Rajasa version fails to include secondary forest under the the moratorium’s scope, meaning that any non-primary forest could be granted to loggers and plantation developers.

“This draft only covers primary forest and peatland,” Elfian said in a statement. “That means that secondary forest can still be cleared for the purpose of developing palm oil and forestry plantations.”

Annual deforestation rates in Sumatra and Kalimantan, 2001-2008.
Annual deforestation rates in Sumatra and Kalimantan, 2001-2008

Kuntoro’s version bans new concessions in both primary and secondary forests as well as peatlands.

Nevertheless, Elfian says both versions still contain a huge loophole: they allow conversion of “degraded” secondary forest.

“There are no indicators whatsoever explaining what ‘degraded secondary forest’ might be,” he said. “Experience shows that this leaves the door wide open to manipulation, particularly if the definition of ‘degraded secondary forest’ is construed as meaning logged over areas. If so, then it will simply be a case of business as usual. In Indonesia, the timber potential of logged over areas amounts to hundreds of cubic meters per hectare. In reality, the phrase ‘degraded secondary forest’ should not have been used. It would have been enough to just use the term ‘secondary forest.”

Greenomics estimates that even under the stronger version of the decree, some 7.5 million hectares are already slated for conversion by more than 300 firms. These concessions, which were provisionally, but not fully, granted prior to January 1, 2011, include 4.5 million hectares of natural forest and peatlands earmarked for oil palm plantations and 3 million for timber and pulp and paper plantations.

“7.5 million hectares… is more than 110 times the area of Singapore,” said Elfian.

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