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Indonesia to set aside 45% of Kalimantan for conservation

Rainforest in West Kalimantan

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) on Thursday announced a regulation that would protect 45 percent of Kalimantan, the Indonesian part of Borneo, according to a statement issued by his office.

The regulation, which was issued January 5, aims to promote sustainable use of the natural resources of Kalimantan, and while light on details is ambitious in its goals, which include preservation of biodiversity and maintenance of ecosystem services; energy independence, including oil, gas, and coal development; sustainable oil palm and rubber plantations; expansion of ecotourism; improved transportation networks; and food self-sufficiency.

On the conservation front, the regulation calls for a network of conservation areas linked by ecosystem corridors and new efforts to limit expansion of monoculture plantations into protected zones. It seeks restoration and rehabilitation of degraded ecosystems, although it doesn’t specify what ecosystems will be protected.

Area deforested for oil palm in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia’s pilot province for its REDD program. Photo by Rhett A. Butler.

But as noted in The Jakarta Globe, the conservation target may be difficult to achieve given the current state of Kalimatan’s forests and seemingly conflicting goals of the regulation.

“It is unclear how this plan will fit in with a government push to see Kalimantan become self-sufficient in energy and a national energy producer by 2025,” wrote Fidelis Satriastanti of The Jakarta Globe.

Deddy Ratih of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) told Satriastanti that “real forests” only cover 30 percent of Kalimantan, a fact that isn’t acknowledged by the central government. Furthermore, some of the authority necessary to implement the regular lies in the hands of local governments, which doesn’t always go along with central government pronouncements. For example district heads have the power to issue mining and plantation permits, while the Ministry of Forestry controls logging concessions.

Nevertheless, the emphasis on the conservation elements of the regulation reflect the Indonesian President’s increasingly vocal support for reducing deforestation and promoting greener development through his 7/26 plan which aims to grow the Indonesian economy by seven percent annually while reducing emissions 26 percent from a projected 2020 baseline. Roughly 80 percent of Indonesia’s emissions result from deforestation, forest degradation through logging, and peatlands loss.

Last year President SBY vowed to dedicate the rest of his term to protecting forests. He also issued an instruction banning new concessions in primary forest areas and peatlands, although that regulation was substantially weakened by interests in the forestry sector, which have fought reform efforts.

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