Wednesday, 17 February 2010

New area to be available for oil palm plantations

Personal note: They keep on logging forests, indirectly with financial help from EC and UK taxpayers. It is a SCANDAL what the EC and British government is doing. An abuse of power and their anything worse?

Mustaqim Adamrah and Aditya Suharmoko , The Jakarta Post , Jakarta | Wed, 02/17/2010

The Agriculture Ministry plans to use 1.8 million hectares of land designated as industrial forests (HTI) as oil palm plantations, pending the issuance of a regulation.

The Forestry Ministry, which is responsible for all forest-based industry, said earlier that it was drafting a decree to allow this.

Agriculture Minister Suswono told reporters Tuesday that of 9.7 million hectares of land available for oil palm plantations, 7.9 million hectares were already developed, leaving 1.8 million hectares now designated as HTI areas.

Forestry Ministry head of research and development Tachrir Fathoni said the plan to allow oil palm plantation development in HTI areas would be in line with Indonesia’s effort to comply with international standards on sustainable forestry management.

“By definition, oil palm plantations are defined as forest, but their supervision comes under the Agriculture Ministry,” he said.

Tachrir said other countries, including Malaysia — the world’s second largest palm oil producer, had also included oil palm plantations in their forest sector.

“By doing so, Malaysia can reap financial incentives from the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change [UNFCCC] for carbon trade,” he said.

Indonesia has the world’s third largest forest reserves, after Brazil and the Republic of the Congo.

But Indonesia has recorded the highest deforestation rate globally, with more than 1 million hectares cleared per year due to illegal logging and massive forest conversion, partly for oil palm plantations.

As the world’s biggest palm oil producer, Indonesia has included crude palm oil as part of the 10 commodities to receive special support in government efforts to create large scale commercial food estates, including at Merauke in Papua.

Nevertheless, the plan faces a great challenge from overlapping and inefficient spatial planning. The country has vowed, however, to avoid damaging protected and conservation forests.

“Analysis on environmental impact should be firm too because this is related to the environment, as we plan to reduce emissions to 26 percent,” Coordinating Economic Minister Hatta Rajasa said after a meeting Tuesday.

Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan said conservation and protected forests would not be touched.

Forests cover 70 percent of Indonesia’s 180 million hectares of land, he said. They include 43 million hectares of primary forests, 48 million hectares of concession forests (half of which are damaged) and 40 million hectares of critical forests (already damaged).

“The primary ones could not be disturbed, which include conservation and protected forests,” said Zulkifli.