Fidelis E. Satriastanti
The Forestry Ministry has promised an “intensive probe” into a controversial permit issued by Aceh Governor Irwandi Yusuf for a pristine, wildlife-rich forest to be razed and replaced by a palm oil plantation.
Hadi Daryanto, the ministry’s secretary general, said on Monday that under the terms of a forestry moratorium for primary and peat forests, the permit should never have been issued.
“It’s clearly a violation because the area in question is a peat forest,” he said.
“On the moratorium map it’s clearly marked out as protected, but in the revision that followed, it was somehow excluded. That exclusion in itself is also a violation because it occurred after the moratorium went into effect.”
Hadi was responding to revelations by the nongovernmental organization Greenomics Indonesia that a revision to the original moratorium map shrunk the forested area under protection and authorized the issuance of a permit to clear 1,065 hectares of forest inside the Leuser ecosystem in Aceh’s Nagan Raya district.
The area is identified as home to the world’s densest population of critically endangered Sumatran orangutans, and also hosts large numbers of critically endangered Sumatran tigers.
Plantation firm Kallista Alam has already begun clearing trees and draining the peat swamp.
In a press release, Elfian Effendi, the Greenomics Indonesia executive director, said the revision showed that “the area concerned was no longer colored red, as it had been in the original map.”
“In fact, the peatland that is no longer colored red exceeds the area of the palm plantation concession granted by Irwandi,” he said.
Greenomics urged Kuntoro Mangkusubroto, the chairman of the national task force on reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD), to publicly explain why the revision allowed for the exclusion of peat forests from the moratorium.
“This is especially important given that Kuntoro told Reuters news agency on December 8 that the opening up of peatland in Kuala Tripa, the area where the palm plantation license was issued by Irwandi, was a grave mistake,” Elfian said.
“Kuntoro also advised the Aceh administration to review its decision to grant the palm plantation license and to seek alternative land for the development of such plantations.”
He added that Kuntoro’s statement as well as those from the Forestry Ministry appeared to be at odds with the revision.
“The secretary general of the Ministry of Forestry, Hadi Daryanto, has stated that the license issued by the Aceh governor violates the indicative moratorium map,” he said.
“If that’s the case, why has the minister of forestry now gone ahead and removed the peatland area in question from the revised map?
“This is a truly embarrassing state of affairs. The implementation of the moratorium has been characterized by a lack of synergy and coordination.”
Elfian added that the central government would have to “investigate its own actions” to find out how the implementation of the moratorium could have been bungled so badly.