A new report from the Anti Forest Mafia Coalition/Koalisi Anti Mafia Hutan is calling on the Indonesian government not to destroy natural forests in its efforts to protect peatlands after an analysis of its land swap policy showed risks for further deforestation. The land swap policy is intended to compensate timber plantation concessions (Hutan Tanaman Industri, or HTI) impacted by Government-mandated peat restoration aimed at preventing recurrence of forest and land fires.

The Washington Post’s coverage of the new report boils down a complicated policy to the succinct description that, “In exchange for “re-wetting” the so-called peatlands, making them unsuitable for plantations, conglomerates such as Sinarmas and April would be given lands elsewhere.”

But as the new report shows through spatial analysis, allocated areas for land swaps contain primary and secondary forest. This policy intended to protect peatland forests will result in more forest loss, a risk of social conflict and possibly abandoned degraded peatlands.

As ordered by the Minister of Environment and Forestry’s Regulation P.40/2017 on Government Facilitation of Industrial Timber Plantations in the Framework of Protection and Management of Peat Ecosystems, land swaps are to be granted to HTI license holders with concessions on which 40% or more of the plantation work area is designated as protected peat ecosystems. From 12.94 million hectares of priority peat restoration areas designated by Indonesia’s Peat Restoration Agency (Badan Restorasi Gambut, or BRG), 2.15 million hectares, or 16% of the total area, are HTI concessions – of which 216,044 experienced disastrous fires in 2015.

The land swap allocation map is contained in the Appendix of Directive Decree of the Minister of Environment and Forestry SK. 4732/MenLHK-PHPL/KPHP/HPL.0/9/2017 on Indicative Maps of Unfulfilled Production Forest Utilization for Forest Utilization Enterprises (hereafter referred to as SK 4732) published on the Ministry’s website. Although the land swap allocation map’s scale is small (1:500,000) and does not meet the Geospatial Information Agency’s requirements for operational maps, the Koalisi Anti Mafia Hutan has conducted spatial analysis and found that from the total land swap allocation of 921,230 hectares, 362,390 hectares, or 40%, is primary or secondary forest.[1]

The Koalisi Anti Mafia Hutan proposes that areas allocated for land swaps at minimum meet the following three criteria:

  1. Prioritize mineral soils under existing HTI licenses that are currently inactive;
  2. Avoid areas that have remaining natural forest, including degraded forest;
  3. Avoid lands that are claimed or managed by customary /local communities;

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