The commitment of President Joko Widodo to protecting Indonesian peatlands continues to take root, from the central government level to regional governments.
This commitment was made crystal clear in the president’s strongly-worded directive to his cabinet last November, which gave a clear indication of his position in terms of peatland protection. Put simply he stated that exploitation of peatlands for plantation and forestry businesses would no longer be allowed.
The President went further still, demanding that both the central government and local governments no longer issue new permits in peatland areas.
Following up on the President’s directive, Minister of Agrarian and Spatial Planning / Head of the National Land Agency, Dr Sofyan Djalil, who was only recently appointed at the end of July this year, sent a letter dated 28 September 2016 to his offices in all provinces and regencies/cities aimed at establishing coordination with local governments in complying with and enforcing the directive.
The agrarian minister’s letter made reference to a letter from the Environment and Forestry Minister (Apr 4), the content of which concerned the directive from President Jokowi issued in a cabinet meeting held in the early November last year.
The agrarian minister’s letter was forwarded to the President, Minister of Home Affairs and Minister of the Environment and Forestry.
“I highly commend this move made by my colleague, the agrarian minister. We in the cabinet continue to work hand-in-hand to ensure that the no peat exploitation policy, which serves as the cornerstone of President Jokowi’s commitment, is enforced without compromise,” the Environment and Forestry Minister, Dr Siti Nurbaya, told foresthints.news on Saturday (Oct 1).
The minister proceeded to explain that in the forestry sector, regulations have already been issued prohibiting any more land-clearing involving peatlands, whether in new or old forestry concessions.
“The prohibition on land-clearing in peatlands not only applies to the plantation sector but also the forestry sector. This is clear. It forms part of the President’s directive. We won’t hesitate to impose heavy sanctions on those who violate this,” warned the minister.
President Jokowi decided to formulate an unprecedented policy aimed at protecting peatlands in the wake of last year’s devastating peat fires. Many of these peat fires were shown to have taken place in peat domes, making them almost impossible to extinguish without the help of rain.
An example of this were the peat fires which burned in peat domes in the province of South Sumatra. These required the fortunate intervention of rain to be put out.
Given this dire situation, President Jokowi took the step of ordering his cabinet to save drained and undrained peat domes, both for preventing future fires as well as for long-term ecological interests.
Indonesia’s Peat Restoration Agency Chief Nazir Foead also applauded the agrarian minister’s letter to the extent it will ensure that no new permits involving peatlands will be issued.
“The agrarian minister’s letter is crucial in terms of supporting peat restoration efforts. The letter also gives a significant boost to the protection of Indonesian peatlands from any new peatland clearing, drainage and canal development emanating from permits,” Nazir told foresthints.news on Monday (Oct 3).
Nazir went on to further extol the letter, claiming that it would also help the peat agency to facilitate and coordinate peat restoration efforts in the seven priority provinces.
According to World Bank calculations, losses stemming from forest and land fires in 2015 amounted to USD 16.1 billion. In fact, economic growth in Indonesia underwent a correction as a result of these fires, not to mention the terrible suffering they brought upon the people of Indonesia and its neighbors.