Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Govt to issue Perppu to settle forest spatial planning

Adianto P. Simamora , The Jakarta Post , Jakarta | Tue, 11/17/2009

The government plans to issue a government regulation in-lieu-of-law (Perppu) to settle overlapping spatial planning in the country's dwindling forest in a bid to withhold deforestation.

Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan said the Perppu would synchronize overlapping regulations on forest between the central government and regencies since the forest had been converted for commercial purposes.

"Many protected forests have been converted into commercial purposes such as into road facilities or office buildings although their status remains as protected forests under the central government," he said Monday.

Asked how the Perppu would alter the legal status of the already converted protected forest, the minister said "we will conduct a study on that case".

The Perrpu would substitute the 2007 Law on Spatial Planning, which allows a local administration to revise its spatial planning every five years.

Zulkifli said that the government would set up a special team to review the spatial planning on the use of forests across the country.

"We hope to submit the draft of the Perppu to the House of Representatives for approval in January 2010."

Indonesia is the third-largest forest nation in the world with about 120 million hectares of tropical forests.

However, forest conversions are continuing to worsen following the implementation of regional autonomy in which provinces and regions are allowed to manage their own households including issuing forestry licenses.

Many new regencies rely on financial sources from forests and have opted to convert the forests into commercial purposes such as for plantations.

The ministry data showed the deforestation rate between 1998 and 2000 reached 2.8 million hectares per year.

Currently, the deforestation rate is about 1.08 million per year, claimed by environmental activists to be the highest rate in the planet.

The 1999 Forestry Law says only the forestry ministry has the authority to issue a forest-conversion permit, but the permit must come with the House's consent.

The ministry has received a mounting number of requests from local administrations, including Central Kalimantan and Riau provincial administrations, for permits to convert their forests into plantations.

Central Kalimantan has asked for permission to convert about 2.5 million hectares of its forest.

Local administrations in Sumatra and Papua have also applied for the permits to convert two forest plots into an oil palm plantation and an agricultural area.

Data from the ministry shows the total area of Indonesia's oil palm plantations jumped to some 6.1 million hectares in 2006 from only about 1.1 million hectares in 1990.

A study by the Forest Watch Indonesia (FWI) earlier said that Central Kalimantan's forests were being converted into oil palm plantations at the fastest rate in the country.

In a recent 16-year period, the conversion rate sky-rocketed more than 400 times to 461,992 hectares per year in 2007 from 1,163 hectares per year in 1991.

As of 2006, there were 2.7 million hectares of forests converted into plantation, including 1.5 million hectares converted into oil palm plantations in the country.

Zulkifli said that his office would rehabilitate at least 500,000 hectares of the forest per annum in the next five years.

"We will also ensure forest rehabilitation will be done around Indonesia's largest reservoirs such as Brantas River."

He announced that his 100 day program included cutting forest fires and reducing illegal logging practices in the country.