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Papua's forest under threat: Greenpeace

Jakarta Post - March 15, 2013

Jakarta – When the government's moratorium on deforestation expires on May 20, forest areas in Papua province will be in peril, activists say.

Kiki Taufik from Greenpeace Indonesia said that Ministerial Decree No. 458/2012 issued in August last year stipulated that around 800,000 hectares of forest in Papua, including protected forest would be converted into productive forest and other utilization area (APL). He urged the government to extend the moratorium and revise the decree.

"By issuing the decree, it seems that the ministry was preparing to open up the forest area for businesses ahead of the expiry date of the two-year moratorium map," Kiki said in a press conference on Thursday.

Teguh Surya, the forest political campaigner for Greenpeace Indonesia, said that the decree would pave the way for the rezoning of 376,535 hectares of forest areas into non-forest zone, as well as the conversion of 392,535 hectares of protected forest into productive forest.

"Even though the decree also stipulates a conversion of around 41,000 hectares of non-forest areas into forest areas, it is not comparable to the protected forests converted into productive forest and APL," Teguh said.

"Moreover, the non-forest area could not replace the function of primary forest, because its destruction could endanger the province's water management as well as ecological system," he added. Papua has 25 million hectares of protected areas followed by Kalimantan with 14 million hectares and Sumatra with 13 million hectares.

Around 90 percent of 31.9 million hectares of land in Papua province is still forest. However, Kiki said, half already have the status of productive forest or APL, which, if the ministry did not revise the decree, would soon be utilized for concessions.

Recently, environmental activists called on the Forestry Ministry to reject the draft spatial planning bylaw proposed by the Aceh administration, that would allow the conversion of around 1.2 million hectares of its existing 3.78 million hectares of protected forests into productive forests.

"Should the government continue with its plan to convert protected forests in Papua, we are afraid it would help the Aceh administration get approval for its new spatial planning draft," Teguh said. "This means Indonesia faces losing a total of 2 million hectares of protected forest within a short period of time."

Separately, the Association for Community and Ecology Based Law Reform (Huma) program coordinator Anggalia Putri said the decree violated the president's commitment to the protection of forests, including the establishment of Reducing Emission from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+). She said the forest conversion would trigger conflict between local communities and business practitioners in Papua.

"Around 65 percent of agrarian conflict is linked to the conversion of forest areas into plantations." (nad)