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Indonesia to require loggers prove their concessions free of overlapping claims

Applicants for forest concessions in Indonesia will soon be required to prove there aren’t overlapping claims on their holdings, reports The Jakarta Globe. The move, which offers the potential to reduce land disputes between forest developers and local communities, could complicate investments in the forestry sector in Indonesia.

The Ministry of Forestry announced the new decree Tuesday. The process will be handled by the Agency for Forestry Area Consolidation (BPKH), a unit of the Forestry Ministry.

“The Forestry Ministry is determined to assist in accelerating the process of comprehensively determining the boundaries of forests by appointing the BPKH as technical assistant,” Hadi Daryanto, the secretary general of the Forestry Ministry, was quoted as saying by the The Jakarta Globe.

Any area found to have overlapping claims “may be taken out of the concession to be awarded, designated as an enclave, recognized as a customary forest or designated as a forest with special purposes,” according to the report. Local communities may be allowed to jointly manage contested areas with the concession-seeker.

The decree could have far-reaching implications in Indonesia, where disputes over forest land are common and sometimes turn violent.

Logging concessions and large-scale plantation development — including oil palm and wood-pulp plantations — have often displaced traditional forest users. The Ministry of Forestry, which controls roughly 70 percent of Indonesia’s forest estate, generally doesn’t recognize traditional land claims, despite laws requiring it to do so. Instead, the ministry grants these community lands to developers, who pay for the privilege of converting the forest. When conflicts arise, developers may rely on state security forces to intimidate or even forcibly displace villagers.

Last year, Kuntoro Mangkusubroto, head of the Indonesian President’s REDD+ Task Force, said the government would immediately work to implement a decade-old law that requires recognition of adat or customary rights. The effort will include developing a land tenure map so government agencies can better understand how communities are using land and delineating the legal status of the Indonesia’s forest area. Only 12 percent of the Indonesia’s forest area has been legally delineated, according to Kuntoro.

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