A new UN report exposes serious flaws in Indonesia’s forest governance, serving as a wake up call to policy makers aiming to conserve forests in the country, which boasts the third largest area of tropical forest coverage in the world.
On Monday, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) together with the Government of Indonesia launched a comprehensive forest governance index, which evaluates forest governance at the central, provincial and district levels and offers policy recommendations designed to better equip the country to conserve forests and peatlands.
The report evaluated 117 indicators related to forest governance at the national and local levels in 2012, scoring governance at each level on a scale of 1 to 5. Overall, the country scored just 2.33 out of the maximum 5 points, a figure that prompted the country’s forestry minister to admit that reforming the sector would be no easy task.
“Indeed it is not easy, including for me, to understand forestry problems,” Minister Zulkifli Hasan said at the report launch on Monday in Jakarta, as quoted by Mongabay-Indonesia.
The report was meant to serve as a baseline for improving forest governance in Indonesia, particularly to strengthen the implementation of Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) programs. Indonesia, with its large forest area and high deforestation rates, has been front and center in REDD+ readiness efforts, however corruption and bureaucratic hurdles have made it difficult for projects to get off the ground.
The index evaluated governance at the central government and in 10 provinces and 20 districts throughout the country. The central government scored highest, with 2.78 points, while provinces and districts performed worse – averaging 2.39 and 1.8 points, respectively.
At the provincial level, Aceh received the lowest score, 2.07 out of 5 points. The province has recently come under fire for a new spatial plan that would open 1.2 million hectares of forest for mining, logging and palm oil production. At the other end of the scale, West Kalimantan province on the island of Borneo scored highest, with 2.73 points.
For the districts, however, scores were significantly lower. Most district scores hovered at or below 2 points, with the poorest-performing district – Fakfak in West Papua – scoring just 1.4. Districts hold much of the power to grant concessions and manage forests in Indonesia, so low governance scores at the district level could have a profound effect on conservation efforts. This highlights one of the major challenges to improving forest governance in Indonesia, where local government corruption is a widespread problem.
New canal draining an area of peat swamp in Central Kalimantan.
UNDP Indonesia country director Beate Trankmann said the information summarized in the report is important for the assessment of forests in different regions in Indonesia, Mongabay-Indonesia reported.
“Looking ahead, we need to prioritize attention to issues including land conflicts, improving law enforcement in the forestry sector and management.”
The UNDP recommendations also called for an end to high fees and bribes in the handling of forest permits and improving REDD+ infrastructure in the country.
Kuntoro Mangkusobroto, head of the country’s REDD+ task force, said the report was indeed a reflection of the current state of forest governance in Indonesia.
“Flowery reports and lip service are no longer relevant,” Kuntoro said at Monday’s launch, as quoted in Mongabay-Indonesia. He hopes this report can be used as a benchmark for improving forest governance in Indonesia, and that going forward, similar reports can be released on a regular basis. “This is the beginning of how we can paint a picture [of the situation] every two or three years. So, we can track the progress and setbacks.”
Engaging with local governments about the index results, Kuntoro said, will also be critical going forward. “We need to meet with governors, district heads and mayors, because they have authority over 85 percent [of forest areas] and hold responsibility for changes in forest areas and land.”
Illegal sawmill in Indonesian Borneo. Photo by Rhett A. Butler
The report launch comes just two weeks before Indonesia’s two-year moratorium on the conversion of primary forests and peatlands is set to expire. The moratorium was signed in 2011 as part of a $1 billion climate change mitigation deal with Norway. Improving forest governance was one of the main objectives of the two-year moratorium, a goal the new index indicates may still be a long way off.
Indeks Tata Kelola Hutan, Lahan, dan REDD+ 2012 di Indonesia [in Indonesian]
(05/03/2013) Indonesia’s Ministry of Forestry on Friday denied a claim by an NGO that it lost or misappropriated 7.1 trillion rupiah ($731 million) in 2012, reports the Jakarta Globe.
(04/18/2013) A Toronto Stock Exchange-listed mining company has hired an official being investigated for corruption under its effort to convince the Aceh provincial government to re-zone protected forest areas for a gold mine on Indonesia’s Sumatra island, according to an alliance of Indonesian environmentalists. The official, former Golkar Deputy Chairman Fadel Muhammad, has been retained by East Asia Minerals to help it win a carve-out for its Miwah project, a 30,000-hectare concession atop a forested mountain in Aceh.
(04/16/2013) A Toronto-listed mining company says it is working closely with the Indonesian government to strip the protected status of some 1.2 million hectares of forest on the island of Sumatra. In a statement issued Tuesday, East Asia Minerals Corporation (TSX:EAS) claimed it is actively involved in the process of devising a new spatial plan for Aceh province, Sumatra’s western-most province. The proposed changes to the spatial plan, which governs land use in the province, would re-zone large areas of protected forest in Aceh for industrial activities.
(04/16/2013) Illegal logging in the heart of Indonesia’s Gunung Palung National Park may be putting one of the country’s last remaining lowland forests at risk. The park, located in Indonesia’s West Kalimantan province on the island of Borneo, is home to a number of endangered species including hornbills and gibbons, as well as around 2,500 orangutans, and is the site of a research station that has been collecting data on the forest for more than 20 years.
(04/12/2013) Indonesia’s forestry minister has again said that the country will extend its two-year moratorium on primary forest and peatland conversion, which is set to expire next month.
(04/08/2013) Indonesia’s Ministry of Forestry will soon raise fees on forest exploitation activities including logging, mining, and oil and gas exploration as part of an effort to increase income from resource use.
(10/09/2011) The plantation and forestry sectors in Indonesia failed to pay as much as $18.8 billion (169.8 trillion rupiah) for timber exploitation between 2004-2007, alleges Indonesian Corruption Watch, an anti-grant activist group, which urged the country’s Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) and Ministry of Forestry to conduct a full investigation.
(12/28/2010) Flying in a plane over the Indonesian half of the island of New Guinea, rainforest stretches like a sea of green, broken only by rugged mountain ranges and winding rivers. The broccoli-like canopy shows little sign of human influence. But as you near Jayapura, the provincial capital of Papua, the tree cover becomes patchier—a sign of logging—and red scars from mining appear before giving way to the monotonous dark green of oil palm plantations and finally grasslands and urban areas. The scene is not unique to Indonesian New Guinea; it has been repeated across the world’s largest archipelago for decades, partly a consequence of agricultural expansion by small farmers, but increasingly a product of extractive industries, especially the logging, plantation, and mining sectors. Papua, in fact, is Indonesia’s last frontier and therefore represents two diverging options for the country’s development path: continued deforestation and degradation of forests under a business-as-usual approach or a shift toward a fundamentally different and unproven model based on greater transparency and careful stewardship of its forest resources.