Monday, 19 October 2009

SBY's policies have damaged environment, say activists

Regarding deforeststation, palm oil plantations and orangutans, Nature Alert and COP have been saying the following for at least two years.


The Jakarta Post , Jakarta | Mon, 10/19/2009

Policies implemented during President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's previous tenure have severely damaged the environment, bringing the country to a state of ecological crisis, a group of environmentalists say.

Executive director of the Indonesian Environmental Forum (Walhi), Berry Nahdian Forqan, said on Sunday that several laws deliberated between 2004 and 2009 allowed private companies to own or manage the country's natural resources.

"This has led to *companies* systematically controlling our natural resources without proper consideration for environmental sustainability and the needs of the Indonesian people," he said.

One of the controversial laws includes the 2007 law on the management of coastal areas and small islands. A supporting regulation on coastal water concessions (HP3) enables certain parties, be it individuals, companies or ethnic groups, to obtain rights to use coastal waters for specific purposes.

Berry argued that the concessions had hampered the welfare of 20 million traditional fishermen, on top of another 127 million people living in coastal areas.

"The HP3 allows companies to take over the management of our coastal areas, cutting off access and control of the surrounding communities to the areas that people have been depending on to earn a living."

The condition of coastal areas is also degrading, due to reclamation projects to establish industrial, commercial and residential areas.

According to Walhi, construction has caused damage to and destroyed nearby mangroves.

Berry also urged the government to review the 2009 law on minerals and coal mining.

Berry said the law did not limit the number of mining permits companies could hold in each area.

"The total mineral and coal mining areas, based on the issued contracts of work, has reached more than 44 million hectares, that's 44 percent of the total area of Indonesia's forests," he added.

The environmental activists also urged the government to pay more attention to the ecological impact of expanding palm oil plantations.

"Almost all of the multinational companies that own palm oil plantations in the country have converted river basin areas and even rivers into plantations," Abetnego Tarigan, the executive director of Sawit Watch, said.

The conversion, he added, polluted the waters, creating water shortages for locals. The monocult ural palm oil plantations have also led to swarms of pests in several regions."Monocultures require high amounts of chemicals, which degrade the quality of soil."

He said 20 million hectares of land had been allocated to palm oil plantations, but so far only 7.8 million hectares were planted.

The activists urged for ecological restoration projects to protect the country's remaining natural resources.

"The President has often spoken to international audiences about how Indonesia is committed to addressing environmental problems in the country, now it's time to actually do something," Berry said. (adh)