Minister gets tough on implementing President’s peat regulatory reforms
JAKARTA (foresthints.news) - President Joko Widodo continues to do the utmost to guarantee consistency in terms of peatland protection through a series of regulatory reforms. This is very evident in the President's efforts to ensure a permanent moratorium on any new peat development, while restoring peat domes as part of a peat protection zone and making certain that all relevant parties comply with peatland hydrological governance.
On 9 February, Environment and Forestry Minister Dr Siti Nurbaya signed a ‘peatland protection package’ in the form of four ministerial regulations and two ministerial decrees which are to serve as detailed legal benchmarks in the implementation of the recently-revised government regulation on peat protection and management signed by the President in early December last year.
“This is part of the unprecedented peat regulatory reforms for long-term protection purposes. We have consulted with the President on every step of these reforms. We should be really grateful to have a President who is so concerned about the protection of peatlands,” Minister Siti Nurbaya told foresthints.news (Feb 20) at the ministry building.
She also said that various perspectives and input from numerous stakeholders who support peatland regulatory reforms have been accommodated at a certain level.
“Any feedback and perspectives that do not support peat regulatory reforms and are geared towards returning to a regime of business-as-usual practices have been rejected out of hand,” the Minister explained.
The following two photos show the intensive discussions which took place, led by the minister, to make sure that the ministry's relevant directorate generals are aligned with respect to the detailed implementation of the aforementioned ministerial regulations and decrees.
Protection of peat domes
At a press briefing held today (Feb 22), Professor San Afri Awang, the Ministry’s Director General of Forestry Planology and Environmental Governance, announced that the restoration of peat domes to their original protective function is consistent with the President’s directive.
“The President’s directive is very precise concerning the return of peat domes to their protective function. The fact is that out of more than 4 million hectares of peat domes in Sumatra, over 90% of them have been drained. In Kalimantan, meanwhile, out of almost 3 million hectares of peat domes, in excess of 60% have been drained,” he lamented.
He pointed out that the drained peat domes in these two islands are dominated by acacia and palm oil plantations. “The Peatland Ecosystem Function Map recently signed by our minister undertakes to incorporate all peat domes, including drained ones, into peat protection zones.”
These photos demonstrate that after the harvesting of acacia has been completed, replanting is no longer allowed, including in drained peat domes which form part of peat protection zones.
The ministry is also preparing a land swap solution for those parts of concessions that have been designated as peat protection zones.
“If 40% or more of a concession area gets designated as a peatland protection zone, a proposal for a land swap can be made. There will be specific rules for this,” Dr Putera Parthama, the Ministry’s Director General of Sustainable Production Forest Management, outlined.
According to Parthama, the most important thing is that all forestry concessions have to revise their 10-year work plans, following the release of the new ministerial regulations and decrees, with a strictly delineated deadline.
“Proposals on the revisions of these work plans must be submitted no later than 30 days after the Peatland Ecosystem Function Map has been received by the companies.”
He reiterated that once any acacia located in a peat protection zone has been harvested, any replanting is prohibited.
A similar assertion was also made by Karliansyah, the Ministry’s Director General of Environmental Pollution and Damage Control, to the effect that peat protection zones, including those which contain drained peat domes, may not be subjected to replanting again after the harvesting of acacia is finished.
The acacia plantations seen in these photos are situated in drained peat domes. On condition that at least 40% of a plantation falls within a peat protection zone, including drained and undrained peat domes, a proposal for a land swap can be submitted whereby the company in question will acquire mineral-laden land whose forest cover is no longer of good quality.
Water level issue
With regard to stakeholders and business players who continue to complain about their obligation to keep the water level at 0.4 meters from the peat surface, it has been made clear that their desire for this to be changed cannot be accommodated as this level is stipulated by a government regulation.
Director General Karliansyah added that he had called a lot of companies to talk about this 0.4 meter water level, and many of them had declared their willingness to meet this requirement.
“We in the government don’t do things arbitrarily. We are in possession of data and facts. A water surface height of 0.4 meters with a distribution of compliance points in every concession block can be fulfilled by the companies,” Director General San Afri asserted.
Meanwhile, Dr Bambang Hendroyono, the Ministry’s Secretary General, sought to underline the clarity of the President’s directive. He said that its overriding objective was to prevent future peat fires and, as such, a water level of 0.4 meters which is observable at various compliance points is non-negotiable.
“We are not playing around. The government is extremely serious about enforcing the law against any companies who decide to violate it. The President has reminded all of us just how much economic and social damage was caused by 2015’s peat fires,” the Secretary General cautioned.
A significant proportion of 2015’s peat fires took place in pulpwood concessions belonging to Asia Pulp and Paper (APP), particularly in two regencies in the province of South Sumatra. President Joko Widodo has continually stated that there will be no compromises when it comes to enforcing the law in relation to forest and land fires, and peatland violations will be no exception.