Zulkifli Hasan, Indonesia’s Minister of Forestry, recently issued almost three million hectares of new plantation concessions to 44 firms. There’s nothing surprising about that. Indonesia has one of the highest rates of deforestation in the world, largely due to oil palm and fast-growing pulpwood plantations. What is perhaps surprising is the timing.
A press release from Indonesian NGO Greenomics (posted below) notes that the regulation allowing the concessions to go ahead is dated 31 December 2010 – the day before a two-year logging moratorium was supposed to start under the Indonesia-Norway US$1 billion REDD deal. (Download the regulation here: P.50/Menhut-II/2010 – in Indonesian, pdf file 96 KB.)
The moratorium will not start until Indonesia’s President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono signs a decree to make the moratorium legally binding. One of the draft decrees on Yudhoyono’s desk came from the Ministry of Forestry and would declare a moratorium on conversion of primary forests and forests on peat more than three metres deep. Another decree, written by the the REDD+ Task Force (which was established to implement the Indonesia-Norway REDD deal) would apply to secondary forests, primary forests and forests on peat. The decrees are available here (in Indonesian).
But primary forests in Indonesia cover quite a small area and much of that is already protected. It is already illegal to log forest on peat more than three metres deep. If Yudhoyono were to sign the Ministry of Forestry draft decree (or one based on this draft) he would be reducing the moratorium to business as usual.
Greenomics states that 1.2 million hectares of the concessions issued on 31 December 2010 are for forests in Papua. Of this area, more than two-thirds will be issued for industrial tree plantations to feed the pulp industry. Just over two weeks after issuing the concessions, the Minister of Forestry announced that,
“We are reorganizing the management of the pulp and paper industry. Previously, they had been allowed to cut down trees from natural forests, but after 2010, not anymore… We are hoping that in 2011, they [2010 permits holders] are already done with their cutting and are starting planting activities… For sanctions, the ministry has already issued a regulation stating that if the company fails to comply within two years, then, we will revoke their permits.”
Elfian Effendi, Executive Director of Greenomics is not convinced. “The natural forest in these concessions will be felled to provide raw material for the pulp industry,” Elfian said in the press release.
While the Indonesian President is considering which draft decree to sign, the Ministry of Forestry seems to be making sure that business as usual will continue, regardless of the logging moratorium.
Indonesian Ministry of Forestry Exempts 44 Companies from Moratorium
(Jakarta, 25 January 2011) — Greenomics Indonesia can reveal that Minister of Forestry Zulkifli Hasan has exempted 44 companies that are applying for plantation forestry licenses (HTI) from the moratorium regulations that are due to be issued.
Minister of Forestry Regulation No. P.50/Menhut-II/20, dated 31 December 2010, means that the applications of the 44 firms for plantation forestry licenses will be processed under the old rules, rather than the rules to be issued as part of the moratorium. The applications cover a total area of 2.9 million hectares.
The majority of these 2.9 million hectares consists of secondary forest, while the remainder is covered by primary forest.
Speaking in Jakarta on Tuesday, 25 January, Greenomics Indonesia Executive Director Elfian Effendi strongly condemned this move by the Minister of Forestry, and his failure to await the issuance of the National Strategic Plan for the Reduction of Emissions from Forest Degradation and Deforestation/REDD+, the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Action Plan, and the upcoming Presidential Instruction on a Moratorium on the Issuance of Licenses for the Conversion of Natural Forest and Peatland.
Data resulting from verifications conducted by Greenomics Indonesia reveals that 6 companies are to be granted plantation forestry licenses extending to 1.2 million hectares of natural forest in Papua.
“Of the 1.2 million hectares, 883,500 will be granted to 3 companies for the development of plantations to supply the pulp industry. This means that the natural forest in these concessions will be felled to provide raw material for the pulp industry,” Elfian explained.
Greenomics Indonesia data also reveals that another 21 companies will be granted forestry plantation licenses for covering 1.03 million hectares in Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo).
“Of the 1.03 million hectares, the bulk, 711,383 hectares, is located in West Kalimantan, while 196,568 hectares are located in East Kalimantan and 107,796 hectares in Central Kalimantan. The rest of the land is in South Kalimantan,” Elfian said.
Besides Papua and Kalimantan, forestry plantation licenses are also to be granted to 17 companies for 678,034 hectares located in Maluku, East Nusa Tenggara, West Nusa Tenggara, West Sulawesi, Central Sulawesi, North Sulawesi, West Sumatra, South Sumatra, Jambi, Gorontalo and Bangka Belitung.
“The new Minister of Forestry Decree was signed on 31 December 2010. So, it is reasonable to assume that it was intended to save the 44 companies from having to comply with the moratorium regulations,” concluded Elfian.
UPDATE – 26 January 2011: Added a link to regulation P.50/Menhut-II/2010.