Indonesia extends forest moratorium

The biodiversity-rich country has extended the protection of primary forests and peatlands for another two years amid growing calls to further strengthen it.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo on Wednesday extended the country’s moratorium on the clearing of primary forests and peatland in a move that is expected to help the country tackle deforestation and forest fires.

A statement issued by the Minister of Environment and Forestry Siti Nurbaya announced the extension and added that discussions on how to strengthen the moratorium, meant to expire on May 13, will continue.

The moratorium, which protects forests spanning more than 60 million hectares of land in Indonesia, was first introduced by former President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in 2011 and has been welcomed by environmental groups. But there have been growing calls to strengthen the moratorium as critics say it is ineffective, with deforestation still taking place in moratorium areas.

Violators of the ban do not get punished, and slash and burn practices to clear areas for plantations continue to occur in the country’s provinces. This often causes haze pollution in the region, affecting neighbouring countries such as Malaysia and Singapore.

Separately, Indonesia’s Deputy Minister for Environment Degradation Control and Climate Change Arief Yuwono told reporters in Singapore on Wednesday that officials will continue to look at beefing up the moratorium and its law enforcement aspect.

He stressed, however, that the moratorium is not the only tool to tackle deforestation.

“The objective of the moratorium is for the ecosystem to recover… It is not a standalone instrument… we also have other regulations and environmental enforcement on the ground,” he said.

“We are in the process of finalising… the connection of the moratorium with other enforcements,” he added.

Yuwono was speaking on the sidelines of an event held by the Singapore Institute of International Affairs (SIIA) on the sustainable use of resources.

Indonesia’s Deputy Minister for Environment Degradation Control and Climate Change Arief Yuwono. Image: SIIA

He also told Eco-Business that Indonesia was progressing with its “one map” initiative which is a nationwide effort to create a single map containing all relevant information on forest licensing and land-use claims.

This was launched last year by Indonesia to reconcile multiple conflicting land-use maps, which lead to overlapping concession areas and has complicated efforts to tackle deforestation and identify violators.

“The completion date for the whole of Indonesia.. it will take two to three years but we want to speed this up because it’s a very important basis for the moratorium,” he said. 

Yuwono also said that Indonesia will be presenting a proposal to host the Asean coordinating centre to tackle transboundary haze pollution later this year, which he hopes Asean members will approve.

Held at the Ritz-Carlton Millenia, the SIIA event attracted a 350-strong audience. It also launched a new portal, the Haze Tracker, which aims to provide easy access to haze-related news, analyses and data on air quality, thermal hotspots and concession maps.

During the dialogue, key plantation companies and agribusiness traders including Wilmar, Cargill, IndoAgri, Sinar Mas, Asia Pulp and Paper, Apical and Bunge also shared the progress made on their sustainability initiatives. 

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