The effectiveness of the ‘marriage’ of environmental and forestry ministry

By Fitrian Ardiansyah, published in Coal Asia, December 17 2014 – January 17, 2015, page 78-79

for the pdf version (508kb), please see: Coal Asia 50_Fitrian Ardiansyah_78-79_Dec2014_Jan2015_KLHK

Coal Asia 50

 

Reducing deforestation and protecting the fragile environment while promoting forest production have been proved to be a challenging task for the previous forestry ministry. The merger of the environmental and forestry ministries into one agency is expected to at least ease the level of deforestation that is relatively high in Indonesia.

There are a number of challenges to achieve such an objective.

Traditionally, the forestry ministry has duties and functions to formulate and implement any government affairs in the field of forestry, including the designation, management and monitoring of the national forest estates, covering approximately 134 million hectares (70 percent of Indonesia’s land surface) in 2011.

In the same year, however, it was reported that only 98 million hectares of these national forest areas were still forested (52 percent of the land surface).

Other sectors and activities such as agricultural plantations and mining have been blamed for such massive forest loss but since the forestry ministry has also been pushing to continuously perform by increasing Indonesia’s export of timber related products, including plywood and pulp and paper, the ministry is also significantly responsible for continuous deforestation.

Several regulations, used as a regulatory framework to support the forestry ministry, clearly facilitate and support individuals, cooperatives, corporations and other entities to harvest and exploit timber and other forest products in the remaining forest areas.

These, among others, are Government Regulation (GR) No. 7 of 1990 on Industrial Timber Plantations, GR No. 51 of 1998 on Forest Resource Rent Provision, GR No. 3 of 2008 on Revision of GR No. 6 of 2007 on Forest Planning and Formulation of Forest Management and Utilization Plan, Minister of Forestry Regulation (MoFR) No. 35 of 2008 on Permits for Primary Forest Industrial Activity, and MoFR No. 50 of 2010 on Granting Licenses for Timber Production in Natural Production Forest.

In contrast, the environmental ministry has the government’s duties to protect and sustainable manage the environment, including the formulation and implementation of national policy and program, the regulation of environmental impact assessment processes, and the collection of relevant environmental data. This ministry has a big stake to support forest protection and conservation.

Unlike the forestry ministry, the environmental ministry has no direct control over particular forest areas, although they can conduct environmental monitoring. This ministry also had limited budget and personnel.

In some cases, the environmental ministry has proved to be effective in monitoring environmental protection as well as prosecuting those suspected to be violating environmental regulations.

One of recently few successful cases is the local court’s ruling in Aceh in January 2014 that found a palm oil company, guilty of illegally burning forests within the Tripa peat swamps, considered as part of the protected fragile Leuser Ecosystem, and has to pay a fine of approximately US$9 million as compensation and US$21 million for restoration activities of the affected forests.

In this situation, the environmental ministry was seen as an instrumental part in ensuring law enforcement in the land use and forest sectors.

The combination of environmental and forestry ministry, if both capacity and capability can be effectively utilized and coordinated, can lead to better law enforcement activities, signaling the seriousness of the current administration to uphold and execute the law and regulations.

This combination, however, can undermine forest protection and conservation, and sustainable forest management, and lead to further deforestation, if exploitative nature of forest and similar industries appears to be dominantly coloring the decision of the combined ministry.

The environmental ministry, according to Law No. 32 of 2009 on Environmental Protection and Management, for instance, has been given a slightly greater control over monitoring and reviewing other governments’ policies and permits, especially if these have potential environmental risks.

Such authority to review other government’s policies and permits can be strengthened within the combined ministry especially with the fact that the current combined ministry has presumably more human resources and budget.

The combined ministry can, however, undermine the role of the previous environmental ministry to review and monitor and, to some extent, control environmental management and protection, in the case of forest and land management, if decisions have been made internally to prefer forest exploitation.

When it comes to laws and regulations on environmental and forest protection, the combined ministry at least now has a more than sufficient legal umbrella, including Law No. 5 of 1990 on Conservation of Biodiversity and Ecosystems, GR No. 60 of 2009 on Revision of GR No. 45 of 2004 on Forest Protection, in addition to Law No. 32 of 2009.

To show that the combined ministry has become better in promoting environmental and forest protection, the ministry can use specific regulations previously utilized by the forestry ministry to deal with few upcoming challenges, including the recent Aceh provincial spatial plan (Qanun No. 19 of 2014) that does not mention the world renowned Leuser ecosystem, and the importance of its protection.

The home affairs ministry has responded to this plan and mentioned that there are 27 points needing to be corrected or revised by the provincial government.

The new environmental and forestry ministry can assist the home affairs ministry and the provincial government by showing that there are regulations such as PD No. 33 of 1998 on Leuser Ecosystem Area Management and Presidential Instruction (PI) No. 5 of 2001 on Eliminating Illegal Logging and the Illegal Timber Trade in the Leuser Ecosystem and Tanjung Puting National Park that need to be followed by the provincial government and incorporated as a regulatory framework of the provincial spatial plan.

The combined ministry can assist the provincial government and other sub-national governments to develop their respective areas by basing on the principles of sustainable development and green economies.

The combined ministry can further work together with relevant ministries, including the finance ministry, to develop further incentives so that other government’s ministries and local governments to mainstream and implement such principles.

The current administration has decided to combine environmental and forestry ministries. Only with the actual outcomes on the ground, such as reduced deforestation, that this administration will be considered successful compared to the previous one.

The combined ministry now has the chance to prove to the general public that combining both ministries is the right decision for the sustainability of Indonesia.

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The writer is climate and sustainability specialist, a doctoral candidate at the Australian National University, and the recipient of Australian Leadership Award and Allison Sudradjat Award. He can be reached at fitrian.ardiansyah@anu.edu.au

New government, old challenges in natural resource management

By Fitrian Ardiansyah, published in Coal Asia, August 17 – September 20, 2014, page 142-143

for the pdf version (9.8MB), please see: Opinion Fitrian Ardiansyah_CoalAsia_AugSep2014

 

CoalAsia_AugSep2014_New Government

The General Elections Commission of Indonesia confirmed Joko Widodo as the winner of the presidential race winner a month ago, paving the way for the creation of a new government that will run for the next five years and address a huge challenge in managing the country’s natural resources.

Although his opponent, Prabowo Subianto, refuses to admit defeat, many scholars and observers believe that Joko Widodo, or ‘Jokowi’ as he is popularly known, will be sworn in as the seventh president later this year.

Officially, the Constitutional Court has to declare Jokowi as the country’s elected president. Nevertheless, whoever the Indonesian next president is, he needs to hit the ground running, taking responsibility for forming a government that can deal with difficult issues such as balancing the country’s economic development, social welfare and environmental protection.

One immediate challenge, that the new president and his cabinet need to address, is regarding fossil fuel and energy subsidies.

High energy subsidies create significant costs for Indonesia and its people, impacting on the economy, the environment and Indonesia’s energy security.

Indonesia-Investment reports that the government allocated IDR300 trillion (US$26.3 billion) on energy subsidies in 2013 (mostly on fuels and electricity), and this year the government will spend at least IDR282 trillion (US$24.7 billion).

In general, such subsidies hinder Indonesia’s sector development, including in poverty alleviation, education and healthcare. In a 2014 report for the International Institute
for Sustainable Development, Ari A. Perdana argues that fossil fuel and energy subsidies do not support low-income households very efficiently and can effectively ‘crowd out’ government spending on alternative policies.

The relatively high subsidies also inhibit the development of indigenous renewable energy sources such as geothermal, biomass, bioenergy and micro-hydro. In 2009, Agus Purnomo, the special advisor on climate change to Indonesia’s president, argued that cutting fossil fuel subsidies is the key to bolstering the renewable energy sector’s
competitiveness.

The new president, therefore, not only has to lay out a policy to cut fuel subsidies immediately but also to develop programs and appoint energy and finance ministers who can use the fund shifted from the subsidies, to help seed investment in
renewable energy development, enabling Indonesia to secure its future energy supply and move toward a sustainable energy growth path.

Jusuf Kalla, the running mate of Jokowi, told Reuters a month ago that a priority program in their first 100 days in office will include the reduction of fuel subsidies. This is likely to be the first big test for the new government since the issue of fuel subsidy reduction is a politically sensitive one.

If the new government is successful to approach and address this, including to convince a ‘divided parliament’ and the general public, the new president and his cabinet have a good platform to create incentives for boosting Indonesia’s economic development, creating incentives for saving energy and finding renewable sources, and eventually reducing the country greenhouse gas emissions.

Another key challenge for the new government in managing the country’s natural resources is to formulate the future development platform of Indonesia, particularly whether the country will still depend heavily on natural resource exploitation.

Continuous natural resource exploitation has contributed significantly to Indonesia’s economic strength but, at the same time, this has led to resource depletion, and environmental degradation and related disasters.

The National Agency for Disaster Management (BNPB) reveals that for the period of 1815-2014, environmental and climate related disaster events have been prevalent, including floods (38 percent), strong wind (21), landslides (16), and drought (12). A study published by the United Nations Environment Program, for example, estimates that in the period of 2010-2013, flood events in Kalimantan have inundated more than 190,000 houses and displaced more than 700,000 people, resulting in significant social and economic costs.

Such disasters reflect on the past and current natural resource management regime of Indonesia as a country, particularly in the management of (or lack of management of) its forests, agriculture, land and key natural resources. Such disasters cost and will eventually shake the very foundations of Indonesia’s economy.

To date, Indonesia has one of the world’s largest rainforest areas but the Indonesian Forestry Ministry and the Center for International Forestry Research show that roughly only one-third of these forest areas are covered by primary forests, one-third by logged-over areas and one-third by vegetation other than forests.

Some scholars argue that forests in Indonesia are still disappearing fast. An article published in the 2014 journal Nature Climate Change suggests that the annual deforestation rate of Indonesia is twice the rate reported by the Indonesian government.

To address this issue, the new government needs to adopt a policy that ensures that halting deforestation and peat land loss is the center of Indonesia’s development policies and programs.

The current president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, and his cabinet have managed to introduce forest and peat land conversion moratorium as well as establish a national REDD+ (reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation) agency.

Such a policy and new agency, however, have already been confronted by a huge task, particularly in being seen to be inclusive, taking into account the voices and interests of various ministries, sectors, layers of governments, and groups of stakeholders such as from local communities and the private sector.

The new government needs to realize that in a big, democratic and decentralized country such as Indonesia, any policy formulated or institution set-up needs all the support it can get to ensure that the desired changes can take place on the ground.

The new government, therefore, needs to rethink its future cabinet structure that allows good coordination among key ministries, such as development planning, forestry, agriculture, energy and the environment, and key agencies, such as the national climate change council and the REDD+ agency.

The new government will be judged by its selection of these ministers and heads of these agencies, and whether these leaders are those representing big businesses or willing to see Indonesia achieving sustainable development outcomes.

In addition, the new president should be much firmer in showing his leadership so that any decision would be followed and applied by those ministries and agencies accordingly.

Fred Stolle of the World Resources Institute, for instance, highlights this issue by stating that Indonesia has relatively good policies on forestry but the biggest challenge of all is to follow up the policies with effective implementation and law enforcement.

This first 100 days of the new government, therefore, would serve as the period for Indonesians to scrutinize the selection of ministers and formulation of key policies of their elected president and vice president.

In general, Indonesian citizens during this period, and even before, have to voice out and remind the elected government about the needs for significant transformation of the country’s current natural resource development, pushing for more efficient and sustainable use of natural resources.

For the elected president and vice presidents, they have to show that they can lead Indonesia, by formulating and implementing their vision, policies and programs that bring about the country’s sustainable development outcomes.

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The author is acting executive director of Pelangi Indonesia, a doctoral candidate at the Australian National University, and the recipient of Australian Leadership Award and Allison Sudradjat Award. He can be reached at fitrian.ardiansyah@anu.edu.au.

Decentralization and avoiding deforestation: the case of Indonesia

“Decentralization and avoiding deforestation: the case of Indonesia”. Authors: Fitrian Ardiansyah and Frank Jotzo.

A book chapter (Chapter 9) in S. Howes & MG Rao (eds), Federal Reform Strategies: Lessons from Asia and Australia, Oxford University Press (2013), Oxford.

Please check this link to access the chapter:

http://www.oxfordscholarship.com/view/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198092001.001.0001/acprof-9780198092001-chapter-9 

Or see the pre-published version of this chapter:

Indonesia-decentralisation-deforestation_FitrianArdiansyah_FrankJotzo_proofedition_2013

Abstract:

Indonesia has undergone far-reaching political, administrative and fiscal decentralization over the last decade. Significant powers now rest with the district level including the management of natural resources and the environment. A large share of state revenue goes to district governments. Deforestation has been a part and parcel of Indonesia’s economic development and it is the principal source of Indonesia’s large greenhouse gas emissions. Indonesia has committed to curb its greenhouse gas emissions, mostly through reduced deforestation. We assess challenges and options for avoiding deforestation under the decentralized system, using Indonesia’s fiscal transfer system. We find that schemes for improving land management and deforestation need to be structured around the interests of local governments and actors. Positive incentives for local governments will need to be created to compensate them for foregone profits and to facilitate alternative development. This could be done through intergovernmental transfers, using either outcome-based or input-based payment schemes.

Keywords: Indonesia, decentralization, avoiding deforestation, REDD+ programme, forest and land use governance, intergovernmental fiscal transfers

Federal Reform Strategies$

Flooding: looking beyond Jakarta

by Fitrian ArdiansyahErik Meijaard and Jessie Wells, published in The Jakarta Globe, 4 December 2013, Opinion.

Original link: http://www.thejakartaglobe.com/opinion/flooding-looking-beyond-jakarta/

Anyone living in Jakarta is more than familiar with the huge impacts of flooding, and the need for greater efforts for prevention and management. And yet, when it comes to the focus and support from the government for these actions, Jakarta may be more “fortunate” compared to other parts of the country that suffer from frequent floods, such as Kalimantan.

Heavy tropical rainfall causes flooding nearly everywhere in the Indonesian archipelago. According to the recent projections of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, in the coming decades Indonesia may receive less rainfall between July and October, but increased rains (and higher intensities) are expected during the wet season.

A combination of continuing environmental degradation (e.g. through deforestation and erosion), climate change that leads to sea level rise and extreme weather events, and poor infrastructure, has increased the urgency for Indonesia to address flooding issues not only through emergency response, but pro-actively through land use planning, mitigation and adaptation.

Some government agencies at the national and sub-national levels, including the Jakarta government, appear to be increasingly aware of the significant social and economic impacts that flooding can have, and are starting to take steps to reduce risks and mitigate impacts.

Others are yet to take action. In Kalimantan, for example, the government and key stakeholders need to make a dramatic shift away from their current business-as-usual approach to development and reactive approach to flooding, to avoid severe impacts that risk collapse of the island’s economic and humanitarian systems.

More than 20 major rivers flow through Kalimantan. Disturbances to the hydro-climatic systems, ecosystems and land use in the catchment areas of these rivers will have serious consequences for the island’s water supplies, transportation networks, and the capacity of its people to further develop their economies and moderate the impacts of droughts and fires.

With regard to flooding, a recent study titled Forests, Floods, People and Wildlife on Borneo showed that problems caused by flooding in Kalimantan are much larger than previously recognized, that flood risks are being exacerbated by trends in climate, land use and urbanization, and that urgent and forward-thinking actions are needed to address these issues.

This study, published by the United Nations Environment Program, estimates that between April 2010 and 2013, media-reported flood events inundated between 197,000 and 360,000 houses in Kalimantan, and displaced between 776,000 and 1.5 million people. The authors emphasize that these are conservative estimates, since many events go unreported, and independent surveys in 354 villages indicated that flooding occurred annually or even more frequently in at least 49 percent of villages in the island — with large social and economic impacts.

This study also found that 18 percent of villages experienced an increase in flood frequencies over the past 30 years. Increases in flood frequencies were primarily concentrated in the middle Mahakam area in East Kalimantan, the lower and middle reaches of the Barito, Kahayan, Sampit and Lamandau Rivers in South and Central Kalimantan, and the low-lying swamps around the Kapuas River in West Kalimantan. Reports of increasing flood frequencies were also strongly associated with increased turbidity and declines in water quality.

These are all areas with high human population densities and increasing agricultural developments, indicating that future economic impacts of flooding could be larger still.

One important aspect specifically explored in the study is the link between deforestation and changes in flood frequencies. The study concludes that it is not possible yet to understand the full picture of the complex relationships between land cover, topography and flooding, but the data indicate that increases in flooding were most likely in areas that have experienced more extensive deforestation for oil palm development, or severe degradation through logging and fires.

Such findings are important for Indonesia’s land use policies. Indonesia’s regulations (including Agriculture Ministry Decree No. 837 of 1980), have provided guidance for identifying lands that play an important role in watershed protection, based on considerations of slope, soil type and rainfall intensity.

However, vast areas of lands that meet these criteria have not been gazetted with any protection status such as protection forest (hutan lindung), but instead have been given out to industrial logging or other development activities incompatible with maintaining their hydrological functions. Such areas include large areas of Kalimantan’s forests on steep slopes or on deep peats, which continue to be converted despite the consequences.

The recent moratorium policy on forest and peat land conversion issued by the national government provides an opportunity for remaining areas to be protected, conserved and sustainably managed.

Taking up this opportunity will require governments at each level to effectively implement and monitor existing policies; to strengthen capacities for landscape planning that sustains the vital functions of watersheds, alongside other ecosystem benefits and economic developments; and to integrate land use planning with local preventive measures for flooding and adaptation to flooding regimes.

Otherwise, flooding impacts associated with deforestation and forest degradation in Kalimantan are only going to get worse.

In addition, rapid migration and urban expansion in the coastal and riverine lowlands affects both the likelihood of flood events (e.g. through altered hydrology and land subsidence), and amplifies the likely impacts of those events on larger and more concentrated populations of vulnerable people. Trends toward urbanization are likely to continue, and so an urgent and sustained effort is needed to reduce the impacts of urban and upstream development on flood risks, and to make settlements as resilient as possible to the risks that remain.

The government needs to act urgently. Agus Purnomo, a member of the Special Staff to the Indonesian President on Climate Change and the head of the secretariat of the National Council on Climate Change, states that many weather-related disasters in Indonesia, such as flooding and landslides, are having increasing impacts. He further argues that it is not only new policies that Indonesia requires, but also increased capacity, sufficient resources and adequate technology to address this issue.

Such comprehensive thinking, however, needs to be translated and supported at the local level, particularly in Kalimantan’s political agendas. Reading local newspapers, one wonders whether politicians in Kalimantan share similar concerns, since most discussions or actions related to flooding focus on mitigation through hard infrastructure (e.g. flood defenses), and appear to neglect efforts for hazard reduction or prevention (e.g. maintaining forested watersheds and improving infrastructure) or risk-reduction and adaptation.

It is time for government to put into effect its own, existing policies, including the government’s commitments to sustaining essential watershed functions, to reducing emissions from land use, and to maintaining at least 45 percent of Kalimantan’s land area as forest (Presidential Decree No. 3 of 2012).

To achieve this, the national government, through its Forestry Ministry, Environment Ministry and recently established REDD+ Agency (reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, plus conservation and enhancement of forest carbon stocks), needs to enhance collaboration with local governments to enable land use planning that integrates the multiple functions of landscapes, including rigorously identifying which forests should be protected from development and which areas can be sustainably used or developed, and how.

The One Map Initiative, for example, can be used to guide the process on the ground so that needs for economic development can be met in concert with (rather than at a cost to) environmental protection and ecosystem services.

It is essential for the government and key stakeholders to show that the country’s commitments to addressing deforestation, climate change and disaster risks are concrete and meaningful. With this, as a society, we can hope that Indonesia will be able to beat the flooding challenge.

Fitrian Ardiansyah is a doctoral candidate at the Australian National University and program development director at Pelangi Indonesia.

Erik Meijaard is a long-term Indonesia-based conservation scientist leading the Borneo Futures initiative as a consultant for People and Nature Consulting International.

Jessie Wells is a postdoc at the Environmental Decisions Group, University of Queensland, researching hydrological ecosystem services in Kalimantan.

Improved governance crucial to protect our most pristine forests

by Fitrian Ardiansyah and Erik Meijaard, published in The Jakarta Globe, 20 September 2013, Opinion.

Original link: http://www.thejakartaglobe.com/opinion/improved-governance-crucial-to-protect-our-most-pristine-forests/

A recent regulation issued by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on the National REDD+ [reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation plus] Agency shows the government’s continuous willingness to better manage our environment. Yet, it also triggers an interesting question about whether the establishment of this new agency is sufficient to save our remaining forests.

Indonesia is one of the most important countries in the world for biodiversity and ecosystem conservation, and has more species than all other countries but Brazil. Also, because of its unique geology, the country has very high levels of endemism: species occur here but nowhere else.

Indonesia and its population have every reason to be proud of their incredible natural heritage. Nevertheless, more serious and comprehensive efforts appear to be needed to ensure that this heritage can be sustained and enjoyed by future generations too.

In Indonesia, some of the most pristine forests have been gazetted as protected areas. These are the cornerstone of ecosystem and wildlife conservation, and to a large extent, have provided human populations with valuable goods and services, including water and local climate regulation.

Protected areas are supposed to provide a safe haven for endangered animal and plant life, away from the human threats, such as over-exploitation and disturbance. In this country, however, the reality seems different. Two recent studies, for instance, found that Indonesian protected areas had suffered from significant deforestation between 2000 and 2010.

A study by Douglas Fuller of the University of Miami and colleagues — in press in the Indonesian Journal of Nature Conservation — is likely the first-ever assessment looking at all terrestrial protected areas in Indonesia, including national parks, and nature and wildlife reserves. The study reveals that between 2000 and 2010 these areas lost 3,700 square kilometers of forest, equaling about half the greater metropolitan area of Jakarta.

When it comes to the status of the areas, deforestation rates in nature and wildlife reserves were about twice as high as those in national parks. Such different deforestation rates may be due to the fact that national parks have been slightly better equipped with funds, human resources and technology compared to other protected areas.

A second study published in the journal PLOS ONE, and led by David Gaveau of the Center for International Forestry Research in Bogor, confirms similar findings.

This study assessed forest loss in Kalimantan between 2000 and 2010. An estimated 303,525 square kilometers or 57 percent of Kalimantan’s land area was covered by natural forest in 2000, of which 14,212 square kilometers had been cleared by 2010. Forests in oil palm concessions had been reduced by 5,600 square kilometers, while the figures for logging concessions are 1,336 square kilometers and for protected forests 1,122 square kilometers. The remaining deforestation happened in land with other uses, such as small-scale agriculture.

In relative terms the study showed that deforestation rates in timber concessions and protected areas were not significantly different. This is a surprising finding since timber removal is obviously allowed in logging concessions but not in protected areas.

This finding, however, can provide a crucial suggestion. This could mean regardless of the status of forests — either production or conservation and unless not changed to conversion forest — as long the areas are well managed, deforestation can be largely avoided.

Under Indonesian laws, logging concessions have to be managed sustainably and remain permanently forest-covered. If these concessions are well-managed, they can continuously function as wildlife habitats and host a wide range of forest species, as well as generate income for government, companies and surrounding communities.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature recognizes this conservation potential of well-managed timber concessions.

Still, this only works as long as the government does not license the conversion of these natural forest concessions to non-forest land uses, such as oil palm plantations, which are of far less value to wildlife, ecosystems and people’s livelihoods.

The remaining forests of Indonesia provide important wildlife habitats and are greatly valued by people for a range of products and services (including flood buffering, temperature control, but also a free source of bush meat and fish). The future of Indonesia’s forest wildlife and the prevention of natural disasters therefore greatly depends on preventing further forest loss in protected areas and timber concessions.

The two studies suggest, however, that much works needs to be done by the Indonesian government and society since either protected areas or logging concessions seem to be inadequately managed and not strong enough to prevent deforestation.

The core weaknesses of the present protected area management system, for instance, will have to be addressed urgently. Performance-based systems should help the government to reward improvement in management and penalize failure, increasing the accountability of those in charge. The new REDD+ agency could support such systems.

Sustainable management of remaining forest areas from which timber can be legally harvested is a second key strategy. President Yudhoyono, for example, committed in 2012 to maintaining at least 45 percent of Kalimantan’s land area as forest.

Achieving such a target requires integration of forest estate planning, including prevention of further conversion of the remaining forests and ensuring that other development planning, both at sub-national and national levels, is synergized. Also, improved governance of forests requires further reforms in forest and land use licensing and management.

Indonesia still has significant forest areas. The future of these valuable resources is in the hands of the government, private sector and public. We need to continuously make decisions and put forward actions that not only boost our current economic growth but also sustain it and secure the country’s future economy by keeping and sustainably managing our forests.

Fitrian Ardiansyah is a doctoral candidate at the Australian National University and a recipient of Australian Leadership Award and Allison Sudradjat Award.

Erik Meijaard is a long-term Indonesia-based conservation scientist leading the Borneo Futures initiative as a consultant for People and Nature Consulting International.

Responsible mining: Is it possible?

Published in Coal Asia, June 11 – July 20, 2013, page 96-97

by Fitrian Ardiansyah

for the pdf version, please see Opinion Fitrian Ardiansyah_CoalAsia_JuneJuly2013

CoalAsia_JuneJuly2013_responsible_mining

Although considered as a significant contributor to the economy of many countries, the mining sector or industry is arguably one of the most heavily criticized industries in the world when it comes to environmental and social protection. It is, therefore, a huge challenge to find an appropriate solution that could balance mining development and environmental performance.

A 2003 study conducted by the World Resources Institute reveals that approximately one-third of the world’s active mines and exploration sites are located in intact ecosystems of high conservation values.

In Indonesia, it may be difficult to know the exact number and location of mining licenses. A 2004 article in Inside Indonesia written by Dianto Bachriadi suggests that the majority of mining activities occur within the national forest estate (i.e. forest controlled by the Forestry Ministry).

Researchers from the Australian National University, in their 2012 paper, estimate that prior to 2000, there were only approximately 600 mining licenses in Indonesia, but by 2010, more than 10,000 licenses had been issued. According to the same study, many of these licenses were issued by local governments and potentially overlap with other permits previously issued over the same area.

The mining sector in Indonesia has been blessed with major investments, and along the way continuously contributing to the country’s growth domestic products (GDP) significantly. A 2011 news from Business Wire reports that the mining sector accounted for 10.8% of Indonesia’s GDP in 2009, with minerals and related products contributing one-fifth of the country’s total exports.

The same news projects that the industry looks set to post strong average annual double- digit growth of 11.2% in real terms over the forecast period to reach US$149.8 billion in 2015. With the increase in coal and mineral mining’s contribution to the total government revenue (a 6% increase in 2009 compared to 2000), it is expected that mining licenses will be issued in a wider sense.

Should this growth continue, without substantial improvement of the level of environmental performance and commitment to social responsibility made by the mining industry, criticisms towards the industry may rise.

For decades, many research institutions and environmental organizations have published reports documenting negative environmental impacts of mining activities.

In these reports, they argue that land clearing for the development of new mining sites and associated infrastructure is viewed as a direct cause of deforestation and habitat destruction in Indonesia. In particular, the most immediate impact on forests from mining activities is the removal of forest vegetation.

One of such reports is a 2000 study conducted by William Sunderlin and Sven Wunder. The study shows that there is a statistically significant relationship between the amount of mineral exports and rate of deforestation in Indonesia during the period of 1976 to 1980.

Another study focusing on Papua and Kalimantan, for instance, supports the previous study by stating that gold and copper mining activities in these two major islands had massive environmental impacts on surrounding forests since 1990s.

Other reports reveal that not only the development of mining will result in negative impacts on forest but also on other ecosystems and the society. These include contamination of rivers used for drinking water and food supplies, and increasing social conflict over access to mineral resources.

With a number of environmental organizations claiming that as of 2005, mining activities have encroached on or threatened 11.4 million hectares of forest in Indonesia, including 8.68 million hectares of protection forests and 2.8 million hectares of conservation areas, an increase in the level of criticisms towards the mining industry appears to be understandable.

In this regard, a proactive approach from the mining industry, particularly in promoting the application of responsible mining practices could be seen as a good initial step leading to a credible balanced solution.

The industry argues that this approach can somehow show that it can leave positive long-term legacies by ensuring the protection of the environment, before, during and after the mining operations take place. A number of different initiatives of responsible mining practices include measures which minimize harm to the environment, recognize human rights and indigenous people’s needs and aspirations, as well as promote greater social and governance accountability.

With a varying degree of successes, the implementation of such initiatives has taken place in Australia, Mongolia, Indonesia and other countries.

A few environmental organizations and local social development organizations are beginning to embrace the initiative and trying to work together with companies and governments to apply the initiative and monitor it.

In a large country such as Indonesia, in which 842 licenses for mining exploration and exploitation have been given between 2005 and 2011 by the Forestry Ministry, covering approximately 2.03 million hectares of forests, the application of the initiative at a larger level and the inclusion of wider stakeholders such as governments, indigenous people and  local environmental organizations are likely key to further success of the initiative.

If the initiative is implemented only at a small scope or scale, one would argue that any best practices resulting from the initiative may not necessarily be applicable to other areas in the country. If there is a bigger platform endorsed by wider stakeholders supporting the initiative, best practices resulting from it may likely be applicable to other areas or could be magnified at the national level.

To be able to undertake and achieve this, trust needs to be developed among different stakeholders, who previously perhaps have negative perceptions toward the industry. Open and transparent discussions need to commence so that any results would be perceived credible and gain wider supports.

Another important factor for any responsible mining initiative to be considered as a serious endeavour is that it should also be feeding back to the country’s legal and government system. As Indonesia is reforming its land use and forestry management by issuing a set of different policies, the initiative needs to positively influence this process and be a major counterpart.

Using a platform of responsible mining initiative, the mining industry has a good opportunity more than ever to show that not only it has the right intention to contribute to the sustainable development of Indonesia, but also a possible approach to make it happen.

Actors in the mining industry, however, need to give wholehearted support to the initiative and collaboratively engage other stakeholders to build trust so that others will be convinced that this is a serious undertaking.

If this is the case, responsible mining practices, although it may not be a perfect solution, is likely viewed as the right step towards it.

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The author is climate and sustainability specialist, a doctoral candidate at the Australian National University, and the recipient of Australian Leadership Award and Allison Sudradjat Award

Indonesia’s fires: a hazy challenge for Southeast Asia

Published in East Asia Forum, July 8th, 2013
Author: Fitrian Ardiansyah, ANU,Original link: http://www.eastasiaforum.org/2013/07/08/indonesias-fires-a-hazy-challenge-for-southeast-asia/

In June 2013, Forest and land fires caused choking smog and transboundary haze in Southeast Asia. Indices of air pollution in Singapore, the southern Malaysia peninsula, and Indonesia’s Riau province had reached dangerous levels.

Smoke is seen while emanating from the grounds of a private palm oil concession company, formerly a peatland forest area, on 29 June 2013 in the Kampar district (Riau province), on Sumatra island. (Photo: AAP)

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has apologised to Malaysia and Singapore for this dangerous hazard, stating that his administration is tackling the problem seriously. The National Agency for Disaster Management, for instance, has been given Rp25 billion (US$2.725 million) to create artificial rain to extinguish the fires.

Serious forest and land fires, although occurring in many countries, reoccur regularly in Indonesia, mainly in the islands of Sumatra and Borneo (in 1982–83, 1987, 1991, 1994, 1997–98, 2005, 2006–07, 2010 and now in 2013).

The official data from Indonesia’s forestry ministry show that 339 hotspots were found in Riau during the period of 14–17 June. The current number of hotspots may still be lower than at the peak of massive fires in times past, where the amount of hotspots reached 25,000 to 35,000 in a month — the highest in August 1997 when 37,938 were counted. But the Indonesian Agency for Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics predicted that due to a weather anomaly trapping smog and haze above Singapore, southern Malaysia and Riau, the accumulation of haze in that area was more severe than usual.

Conventional suppression approaches — extinguishing fires after they occur — are likely to be inadequate. Artificial rain, water bombing and firefighting on the ground may tackle the immediate symptoms but not necessarily the causes.

In the past, haze and massive forest and land fires were usually caused by clearing and preparing the lands with fire, to develop plantations, agriculture and other land-use activities.

A recent analysis conducted by the World Resources Institute appears to show a similar pattern of causality. The analysis indicates that in the period of 12–20 June 2013, 48 per cent of fires occurred outside of land concessions, 27 per cent in timber plantations, 20 per cent in oil palm plantations, 4 per cent in protected areas and 1 per cent in logging concessions. A significant number of fires happening inside timber and oil palm plantations and other land uses — in other words, outside of concessions, and so likely associated with activities for clearing further land for agriculture/plantation — suggests that actions in addressing forest and peat conversion, as well as forest and land fires in Indonesia, are yet to address the root causes of the problems.

Indonesia has enacted policy placing a moratorium on forest conversion. But the recent fires could mean that policy implementation is lacking, including when it comes to prosecuting offenders, from low-level farmers up to big-plantation owners or even the financiers. Deforestation and peat conversion — for logging or to establish plantations and agriculture lands — very often leads to fires during the dry months, and this is why effectively enforcing the moratorium is essential.

There is need for a breakthrough in programs, cutting to the heart of the political economy of land uses at different levels, to fundamentally transform and positively influence land users’ behaviour in managing their lands.

It is a common perception among land users that using fires is one of the cheapest land preparation methods available. It is therefore important for the government to equip its policies with the appropriate incentives and disincentives; operational and technical guidelines; a clear institutional framework with a strong mandate; and a system for implementation, monitoring and enforcement.

Some land-use actors have used loopholes arising from unclear policies and poor coordination between ministries and different layers of governments, to gain an unfair advantage. If this continues, deforestation, peat lands conversion and fires may well become an annual catastrophe for Southeast Asia. This can be alleviated if investors and private land-use workers cooperate with authorities and other stakeholders to ensure the implementation and enforcement of responsible and sustainable practices, including conversion moratoriums and zero-burning activities.

Regarding law enforcement, and changing corporate practices on the ground, it is clear that regional collaboration among, at least, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore is urgently needed. Such collaboration should cover not only government but the private sector and civil society groups too.

Concessions and plantations are owned and financed by Indonesians, Malaysians, Singaporeans and others. Serious and proactive involvement and support for sustainable practices, by promoting, adopting and implementing zero-burning activities, as well as helping smallholders and local farmers to follow suit, are key elements of success in addressing Southeast Asia’s haze challenge. Financial institutions in the three countries and beyond, for instance, can develop robust investment screening policies to discourage high-risk investment patterns leading to deforestation and fires. Substantive investments, financial support and technical capacity need to be provided for small holders and poor farmers so that they have options to adopt zero-burning practices.

The public and consumers in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore can further push companies to adopt sustainable practices by only purchasing products (palm oil, timber and the like) which have been produced in a sustainable manner.

Southeast Asian people, especially the citizens in these three countries, have every right to breathe fresh air and demand their governments and corporations act seriously, urgently and transparently so that responsible and sustainable practices become the norms. If such efforts can be done, this could send a strong signal to the market and governments that the people in the region will not tolerate environmental disasters now and in the future.

Fitrian Ardiansyah is a climate and sustainability specialist, a doctoral candidate at the Australian National University, and the recipient of the Australian Leadership Award and Allison Sudradjat Award.