- Communities in North Aceh have been resisting plantation firm PT Mandum Payah Tamita for years.
- Locals are afraid the company’s actions will spur flooding downstream of two important rivers.
- The firm’s concession lies within the Leuser Ecosystem, one of Sumatra’s last intact rainforests.
A coalition of indigenous leaders and NGOs from Indonesia’s Aceh province is demanding that the governor revoke a plantation company’s license to operate in an important water catchment area.
The forest in question is said to be a corridor for the critically endangered Sumatran elephant (Elephas maximus sumatrensis), and a source of rattan and honey for local people. But the coalition is more concerned about a likely uptick in flooding if the company, PT Mandum Payah Tamita, continues to clear land. The forest covered by its permit informs the headwaters of the Keureuto and Jambo Aye Rivers and serves to mitigate flooding during heavy rains.
Since January, floods and landslides have wreaked havoc in heavily deforested Sumatra, and elsewhere in the archipelago. Tens of thousands of Indonesians have been displaced in 2016, according to the country’s disaster mitigation agency.
North Aceh has not gone unaffected. “Big floods are already happening,” said Irsadi Aristora, director of SILFA, one of the NGOs in the coalition.
Syarifuddin, one of the North Aceh mukim, said incidences of flooding had increased in recent years due to logging in the catchment area. “We’re tired of being victims of damage to the forest upstream,” he said. “That’s why we’re asking the governor to revoke this company’s permit.”
The Aceh administration has yet to respond to a February 2 letter from the coalition, which is called the North Aceh People’s Movement to Protect the Cut Mutia Protected Forest.
The area lies within the nationally protected Leuser Ecosystem, one of Southeast Asia’s last great swaths of intact rainforest and itself the subject of a legal battle over its fate.
Junaidi Hanafiah. “Warga Aceh Utara Desak Gubernur Cabut Izin PT. Mandum Payah Tamita.” Mongabay-Indonesia. 11 February 2016.