Greenpeace: large swathes of forest lost in Indonesia despite moratorium
Areas of forest are burned for oil palm plantations near the village of Bawa, Indonesia, July 27, 2019. EPA-EFE FILE/HOTLI SIMANJUNTAK
Jakarta, Aug 8 (efe-epa).- Environmentalist group Greenpeace on Thursday denounced the mass deforestation of over a million hectares of forest and peatland protected by a government-imposed moratorium on palm plantations, logging operations and mining.
Greenpeace said that the loss of 1.2 million ha (almost 3 million acres) of primary forestland between 2012-18 – at an annual average rate of 137,000 ha – was almost twice the 680,000 ha lost in the seven years prior to the moratorium's implementation in 2011, an average of 97,000 ha per year.
In addition, over a million ha were devoured by flames in wildfires between 2015-18 in these protected areas, though part of that scorched land has been reforested.
"Deforestation and forest fires have continued inside moratorium areas and boundary maps get regularly redrawn to remove forest or peat areas that are of interest to plantation companies," said Greenpeace's campaign chief for Southeast Asia, Kiki Taufik.
The Indonesian government makes revisions to the maps every six months to add or remove protected areas.
The until-now temporary moratorium covers a total surface of some 65 million ha of forest and peatland.
It had been regularly extended every two years until the Indonesian government announced on Monday that it would be made permanent.
"Making it permanent doesn't fix its fundamental weaknesses and won't stop forest and peatland degradation in Indonesia,” Taufik said. "The moratorium is a good example of government propaganda on forest conservation. It sounds impressive but doesn’t deliver real change on the ground."
According to Greenpeace, permits for the exploitation of 1.6 million out of the 4.5 million ha of primary forest and peatland (areas with carbon-rich soil) that had been taken off the moratorium map have been granted to palm oil, paper or mining companies.
The non-profit also lambasted Indonesian President Joko Widodo, who, according to Greenpeace, publicly told his forests and environment minister "she should shut her eyes and give new permits as quickly as possible."
Greenpeace argued that, in making the moratorium permanent, Widodo's administration should promote the so-called one-map initiative, which would allow public access to crucial data on land cultivation rights.
It added that the government also needed to re-wet drained peatlands and "urgently extend its remit to deliver zero deforestation of all forests, including zero forest fires and zero new peatland drainage." EFE-EPA