Site icon Conservation news

Aceh citizens threaten lawsuit over spatial plan

  • A coalition of concerned citizens has notified the central and provincial governments that if they do not respond in 60 days, it will move forward with the lawsuit.
  • Last year, the Home Affairs Ministry said the Aceh government needs to revise the plan, but Aceh has yet to do so.
  • Diplomats from Europe have also urged Aceh to revise the plan.

An alliance of concerned citizens in Aceh have prepared a class action lawsuit against Indonesia’s central government over an allegedly illegal spatial plan they worry will set the province on a path to ecological ruin.

Last week, the People’s Movement to Contest the Aceh Spatial Plan formally notified the Home Affairs Ministry and the Aceh government that if they do not respond in 60 days, it will move forward with the lawsuit.

The spatial plan, passed at the end of 2013 by the Aceh parliament, makes no mention of the Leuser Ecosystem, home to one of the world’s largest tropical forests and the only place on earth where the Sumatran orangutan, rhino, elephant and tiger still coexist in the wild.

Last year, toward the end of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s presidency, the Home Affairs Ministry said it would sign off on the plan – pending its revision on certain points, including the omission of Leuser, a nationally protected area.

Nearly a year later, the Aceh government has not revised the plan, and the ministry has yet to follow up.

“This lawsuit is asking the government to do its job, to execute what they said they’re going to do,” Farwiza Farhan, a representative of the plaintiffs, told Mongabay.

A Sumatran tiger. Photo by Rhett A. Butler

The plan has also been the target of ire from abroad. Last year, an AVAAZ petition calling on the government to reject the plan received more than 1.3 million signatures.

Despite a wariness to be seen as interfering in Aceh, diplomats from Norway and the EU have also urged the province to revise the plan.

Last year with the Aceh government’s blessing, the EU funded an independent study of the plan, which it hoped the province would then use as a basis for revision. But Aceh has yet to act on the results of the study, completed earlier this year.

The ongoing haze crisis should give Jakarta extra impetus to cancel the plan, Farwiza said.

“We don’t want Leuser to become like Riau and Jambi, with all these fires,” she said.