Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The land grabbed from Toba Pulp Lestari to be returned to indigenous people

Indonesia's decision to return customary lands to indigenous peoples is a breakthrough for their rights and a boost to campaigners pushing for a slowdown in deforestation in the Southeast Asian country, a leading rights activist said.

President Joko Widodo announced on Dec. 30 that Indonesia would return 13,000 hectares of customary lands to nine indigenous communities, and committed to giving back a total of 12.7 million hectares to local and indigenous groups.

Veteran indigenous rights campaigner Abdon Nababan, who attended the announcement at the presidential palace, said it was an encouraging sign for the traditional custodians of Indonesia's forests.

"In our constitution, since (independence in) 1945, there has been strong recognition and respect for indigenous rights, but until the end of last year, there has been no real legal recognition," said Nababan, secretary general of the Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago (AMAN).

"This is the first time," he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by telephone from Jakarta.

Indonesia has been a focus of global efforts to rein in greenhouse gas emissions caused by widespread deforestation of swampy, carbon-rich peatlands to make way for plantations for industries such as palm oil, pulp and paper.

The deforested, drained peatlands are highly flammable, and smouldering peatland fires have caused choking haze across Southeast Asia in recent years.

These forests are often in remote areas long inhabited by indigenous peoples, who may not have the documents proving their land ownership or the ability to counter land acquisition by the government and corporations.

Most of the returned land is state forestland, Nababan said.

It includes a 5,000-hectare concession in North Sumatra province granted in 1992 to Indonesia-based pulp manufacturer Toba Pulp Lestari, company official Anwar Lawden said.

"With regards to the land claimed within our concession by several communities, we have been working with the Ministry of Forestry office for a long term solution," Lawden said in an emailed response to questions.

AMAN's Nababan, who began working on indigenous rights two decades ago, said the returned lands comprise a fraction of the 8.23 million hectares that some 700 indigenous communities have asked the government to return.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Indonesia's forest concessionaires required to restore peatland

According to the Jakarta Post, the Indonesian Peatland Restoration Agency (BRG) will require forest concessionaires to restore 1.4 million hectares of peatland starting in January 2017. The move is set to affect 650,389 hectares managed by 36 forest concessionaires in five provinces, namely South Sumatra, Central Kalimantan, West Kalimantan, Riau and Jambi, BRG head Nazir Foead said. “The areas to be restored are equivalent to 26 percent of the total peatland restoration target,” Nazir said.
Established by President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo to decrease forest fires, the agency has set a goal to recover 2.49 million ha of peatland of which about 1 million ha is located in protected forests, conservation forests and community forests.
During execution, the companies would have to comply with technical guidelines set by the government and install a monitoring censor for water surface with technology developed by the agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology (BPPT), Nazir said. BRG would closely monitor the implementation of the measure, he added.
Indonesia, home to the world’s third-biggest tropical rain forest after the Amazon and the Congo Basin, has dealt with concurrent forest fires in recent years, causing a spread of haze to neighboring Malaysia, Singapore and even Thailand. The fires has been fuelled by pulp and palm oil plantations on dried peat.

Monday, January 02, 2017

Customary forest within APRIL sister company concession granted to indigenous group

President Joko Widodo granted part of the customary forests lying within a Royal Golden Eagle (RGE) pulpwood concession to an indigenous group as a symbol of the state's recognition of customary forests in Indonesia. The conflict between indigenous groups and the a pulpwood company PT TPL, a subsidiary of pulp giant RGE (also controlling APRIL)has been going on for years. Based on the Ministry of the Environment and Forestry’s data, there are eleven customary forest blocks spread throughout the TPL concession. The recognition given to the customary forests by the state, whereby they will be legally managed by the indigenous groups concerned, was a resolution made by the President. Indigenous groups have been struggling for and awaiting such a resolution for more than seven decades.
Of the nine Environment and Forestry Minister’s decrees granting the customary forests to indigenous groups located in various provinces, one of them pertains to the Tombak Haminjon customary forest, one of eleven customary forests located in PT TPL’s concession which spans an area in excess of five thousand soccer fields.
The decrees were handed over in person by the President at the State Palace (30 Dec), accompanied by the Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya and witnessed by relevant ministers, ambassadors, and CSOs.
“We have got the ball rolling in terms of recognizing customary forests by starting with these nine customary forests which cover an area of over 13 thousand hectares. In my pocket, there are 12.7 million hectares which will continue to be distributed to indigenous and local community groups,” said the President in a speech at the event.
This Environment and Forestry Ministry’s map depicts the distribution of these 12.7 million hectares promised by the President through social forestry program (delineated in white).
Minister Siti Nurbaya in her introductory speech, which served as her report to the President, said that this move on the part of her ministry is a clear manifestation of the President's commitment and directives in respect of forest protection and indigenous rights.
“The recognition of customary forests by the state, which is taking place for the first time, forms part of our efforts to uphold our constitution,” the minister explained.
The minister also expressed her utmost gratitude to all the stakeholders, in particular the indigenous groups and CSOs involved, for their mutual cooperation and support in bringing about the recognition of customary forests.
These photos show the dialogue held between the President and a representative of indigenous groups after the event at which the customary forest recognition decrees were handed over.