Jakarta (ANTARA News) - The government is supposed to impose a moratorium on deforestation starting January 2011, but it has been delayed for the last three months reportedly due to intervention from business and political interests.

Immediate implementation of moratorium has been called for especially by environmental NGO activists to protect Indonesia`s remaining 130-million-hectare forest, which is the world`s third largest after Brazil and Congo.

"Sustainability and economic development go hand in hand. Ensuring sustainable development will avert further ecological degradation. And a good moratorium is key toward real and lasting development that will improve the welfare of all Indonesians," Yuyun Indradi, Greenpeace Southeast Asia Forests Political Campaigner, said recently.

Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan said early this year that moratorium would apply to primary and peat forests.

The moratorium has initially been agreed on in an Indonesia-Norway Letter of Intent (LoI) signed by the two countries on May 26, 2010. This agreement stipulates that the two-year moratorium must start in January 2011.

The Norwegian government has pledged to provide US$1 billion to Indonesia in return to the moratorium implementation.

The moratorium implementation also deems necessary to support President Susilo Bambang Yudhonoyono`s pledge last year to cut carbon emissions by 26 percent by 2020 using the state budget, and by 41 percent if developed nations gave the financial support to do so.

A coalition of Indonesian NGOs and Greenpeace, in Jakarta on March 31, 2011, went to the ministry of economic affairs to call for the immediate implementation of moratorium to protect the rainforest and the biodiversity.

They also urged the President to issue a good moratorium that is not time-bound, and protects all natural forests and peatlands, including secondary forests.

Peat swamp forests in Indonesia consist of 50 percent of tropical peat swamps and 10 percent of dry land.

Indonesia`s peat swamp forests had the potential of playing an important role in mitigating global warming and climate change, Karl Heinz Steinmann, an expert from the REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) Pilot Project Team, said recently.

"We support President SBY`s commitment to implement a moratorium on deforestation. The moratorium is an important first step to a long term scheme to improve Indonesia`s forests governance, particularly in forest-related sectors such as forestry, plantations and mining," Greenpeace said in a press statement recently.

Data from the Ministry of Forestry shows the rate of forest destruction in Indonesia is 1,1 million hectares per year.

The three month delay in the moratorium implementation has already resulted in deforestation of approximately 275,000 hectares, equivalent to four times the land area of Jakarta

"But the forests cannot wait.Any delay in the implementation of a good moratorium means forests continue to be bulldozed day after day," Mansuetus Darto, National Coordinator of Palm Oil Farmers Association, said as quoted in the press release of Greenpeace recently.

Addressing a palm oil conference and the Palm Oil Centennial Expo organized by the Indonesian Palm Oil Businessmen Association (Gapki) in Medan, North Sumatra, last March 31, 2011, Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs Hatta Rajasa has asked palm oil businessmen not to worry about the planned moratorium because the temporary restriction of oil palm plantation expansion will be applied only in certain locations.

"The moratorium is imposed not merely because of foreign pressure. it should be made clear," the minister said, adding the government has developed job descriptions for each agency to support the carbon emission reduction of 26 percent.

The moratorium will be implemented in premier forests and abandoned peat land, and it will not include forests that could be converted into infrastructure and crop farms, according to Hatta.

As the population keeps growing, it`s impossible for Indonesia to reduce its crop farms and infrastructure areas, he added.

Minister Hatta gave his assurance about the moratorium in response to Gapki Chairman Joefly Bahroeny`s statement saying that currently palm oil businessmen were worried about the future of their businesses because of the moratorium issue.

Joefly urged the government to continue supporting palm oil businessmen to maintain Indonesia`s position as the world`s largest palm oil producing country.

The Government`s moratorium draft has drawn mixed responses from several NGOs.

Greenomics Indonesia believes that the existing government`s moratorium draft would allow deforestation covering a total area of 7.5 million hectares because it permits hundreds of plantation companies to extend their licenses.

Executive Director of Greenomics Indonesia Elfian Effendi in a press statement issued in Jakarta recently said the two drafts of presidential instruction on moratorium implementation, respectively proposed by REDD+ Task Force led by Kuntoro Mangkusubroto and the Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs, were inadequate to prevent conversion of 7.5-million-hectare forest areas into oilpalm plantations and industrial forestry area.

Elfian particularly objected The Coordinating Minister`s draft because it did not include secondary forests.

Coordinator of Civil Society Forum (CSF) Giorgio Budi Indrarto said at press conference organized at the office of Walhi (Indonesian Environmental Forum) recently that moratorium was the only way to stop deforestation in Indonesia.

Walhi`s Climate Change Campaigner Teguh Surya on the occasion said the moratorium implementation should be able to cut the deforestation rate at 1.17 million hectare/year by 50 percent.

Ria Saryanthi of Birdlife Indonesia, however, was of the view that moratorium alone would not help protect Indonesia`s forests.

She recently called for ecosystem restoration to increase the forest productivity and preserve the biodiversity, as well as improve the people`s welfare.

"Ecosystem restoration is an effort to save forests in Indonesia," she stated.

Presidential spokesman Aldrin Pasha said, as reported by Kompas daily on Tuesday (April 5), that the draft on the presidential instruction on the moratorium was currently being processed by the Cabinet Secretariat and the Coordinating Ministry for Economic Affairs.

However, Zul Fahmi, Greenpeace Indonesia campaigner, reminded that every minute, five hectares of Indonesian forest disappear due to illegal logging and conversion into plantations.

"Forests can no longer wait," he said as quoted by the daily. (*)


Reporter: Fardah
Editor: Jafar M Sidik
Copyright © ANTARA 2011