- Top officials in Indonesia have reportedly declared a moratorium on new oil palm and mining concessions in the Leuser Ecosystem.
- Indonesia's Minister of the Environment and Forestry Siti Nurbaya, Aceh Province governor Zaini Abdullah, and Wali Nanggroe Aceh Malik Mahmud Al Haytar reached an agreement late Tuesday night.
- The moratorium includes a review of existing oil palm and mining concessions in the Leuser Ecosystem as well as a ban on land-clearing until the review is complete.
Top officials in Indonesia have reportedly declared a moratorium on new oil palm and mining concessions in the Leuser Ecosystem, the only place on Earth where elephants, rhinos, orangutans, and tigers roam the same forests.
According to foresthints.news, Indonesia’s Minister of the Environment and Forestry Siti Nurbaya, Aceh Province governor Zaini Abdullah, and Wali Nanggroe Aceh or “Guardian of Aceh” Malik Mahmud Al Haytar reached an agreement late Tuesday night. The moratorium includes a review of existing oil palm and mining concessions in the Leuser Ecosystem as well as a ban on land-clearing until the review is complete.
“We are still busy preparing the details of the moratorium. After the completion of this phase, we will release details of the next phase,” Minister Siti told foresthints.news. “However, I can say that a moratorium on the expansion of palm oil and mining in the Leuser Ecosystem is set in stone.”
The moratorium comes just days after Indonesian president Joko Widodo pledged to establish a nationwide moratorium on such concessions in forest areas. Jokowi, as the president is popularly known, said that Indonesia has already allocated enough land for palm oil production, noting that better management practices could double palm oil production on existing plantations.
Aceh’s decision to follow Jokowi’s directive is significant because sub-national governments aren’t always keen on taking orders from the central government. Indonesia’s decentralized system leaves many land use decisions up to local officials. Accordingly, Siti — a central government official — welcomed Aceh’s cooperation.
“This very important step we have taken represents a concrete follow-up to the directive of President Joko Widodo who has demanded a halt to the expansion of palm oil and mining,” foresthints.news quoted the minister as saying. “I really appreciate the positive response of the Wali Nanggroe Aceh and Aceh Governor, both of whom have expressed their willingness to take the initiative in following up on the president’s directive.”
Malik Mahmud Al Haytar called the agreement “good news” for Aceh’s people and wildlife.
“Without the slightest hesitation, I give my absolute support to any measures taken to protect the Leuser Ecosystem, including this moratorium decision,” he was quoted as saying. “This is good news for all of us, including all the wildlife in the Leuser Ecosystem.”
The moratorium was announced less than a month after a visit by actor Leonardo Dicaprio raised awareness of threats to the Leuser Ecosystem from the mining and palm oil industries. Dicaprio, whose philanthropic foundation last year put up over $3 million for conservation projects in Sumatra, called for a global effort to save the ecosystem, which is one of the last refuges of lowland rainforest on the Indonesian island.
Since the 1980s, Sumatra has been hard hit by forest conversion for oil palm, timber, and wood fiber plantations. Those industries have also driven large-scale drainage of tropical swamps known as peatlands, leaving vast area at risk of catastrophic fires, which now plague the region on a regular basis, including last year’s haze crisis which hospitalized hundreds of thousands and released more than a billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere.