Jakarta – The Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) is urging President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo to summon companies which have business permits covering forest areas and land in South Kalimantan.
Walhi suspects that these corporations are the cause of the massive deforestation, which is the root of the flooding problem which has inundated seven regencies and cities in South Kalimantan.
"Jokowi should be present and strong. One thing [he must do] is have the courage to summon the owners of mining, palm oil, HTI [industrial timber estates}, HPH [production forest concessions]. We [need] an open dialogue in front of the people and civil society organisations", South Kalimantan Walhi Coordinator Kisworo Dwi Cahyono told CNN Indonesia on Sunday January 18.
Cahyono said he regrets the remarks by the former Jakarta governor who only blamed heavy rainfall and the carrying capacity of rivers as the cause of the floods during a visit to South Kalimantan on Monday. Yet, according to Cahyono, the floods are an ecological disaster caused by the many business concessions in the region.
According to Walhi's records, 50 percent of South Kalimantan's land area – covering some 3.7 million hectares – is controlled by mining concessions, 33 percent by palm oil plantation concessions and 17 percent by HPH and HTI.
Cahyono is urging the government to immediately audit the business permits of extractive industries in the region and stop issuing new licenses. If cases of environmental destruction are found, he is calling on law enforcement agencies to act firmly.
He also criticised the government for being too slow in anticipating the high rainfall given that the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) had already predicted heavy rainfall for the region.
Quoting data from the Environment and Forestry Ministry (KLHK), Kalimantan recorded the highest rate of deforestation in the country between 2017 and 2018, loosing around 128.2 thousand hectares (net) of forest cover.
The biggest contributors to deforestation in the region are found in production forest (HP) areas or forests used for development, industry and export, covering some 25.3 thousand hectares.
This is followed by limited production forest (HPT) areas covering 11.9 thousand hectares, conservation production forests (HPK) covering 9.1 thousand hectares, conservation forests (HK) covering 4.6 thousand hectares and protected forests (HL) covering 3 thousand hectares.
Meanwhile data from Forest Watch Indonesia (FWI) revealed in a report titled "Deforestation Rates an Alarm for Indonesia's Deteriorating Forests" showed that 12.8 million hectares of forest in Kalimantan is controlled by business concessions.
This figure is made up of 5.2 million hectares for HPH, 756,000 hectares for HTI, 642,000 hectares for palm oil plantations and 1.5 million hectares for mining.
There are also some 4.6 million hectares of forest where there is an overlap between permits for HPH, HTI, palm oil plantations and mining. This data does not yet include areas controlled by the state-owned forestry company Perum Perhutani. (fey/ain)
[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Walhi Desak Jokowi Panggil Korporasi soal Banjir Kalsel".]