Kapuas Hulu in West Kalimantan province on Borneo island, an area concerned with deforestation due to palm oil plantations. © ROMEO GACAD/AFP/Getty Images
Kapuas Hulu in West Kalimantan province on Borneo island, an area concerned with deforestation due to palm oil plantations. © ROMEO GACAD/AFP/Getty Images

Indonesia declares permanent ban on forest clearance

Indonesian president Joko Widodo has declared a permanent moratorium on deforestation activities on 66.1m hectares of forest and peatland. 

The ban, announced last week, includes the prevention of activities that require land to be cleared, such as palm oil planting, mining and logging.

Widodo’s decision comes after mounting concern over outbreaks of acute respiratory infections in provinces including Sumatra and Borneo, caused by the smoke from forest fires in recent weeks.

Ministers, governors and other officials have been stopped from giving out permits for the clearance of the land within the designated area, which covers an area of 254,827 square miles. 

In a statement reported by Reuters, Siti Nurbaya Bakar, forestry and environment minister, said: "The president signed an instruction on stopping new permits and improving primary forest and peatland governance."

However, campaigning organisations such as Greenpeace have dismissed the move as “propaganda”.

New mapping analysis by Greenpeace reveals that more than one million hectares of land inside the moratorium area burned between 2015–2018 as a result of forest fires. 

It also claims that deforestation rates have risen in places that were supposed to be protected after the moratorium was introduced in 2011. 

In addition, the size of the area protected has been reduced from 69.1m to 66.1m hectares, according to Greenpeace.

“The Indonesia forests moratorium is a good example of government propaganda on forest conservation. It sounds impressive but doesn’t deliver real change on the ground,” Kiki Taufik, global head of Greenpeace Southeast Asia’s forests campaign, said.

“Deforestation and forest fires have continued inside moratorium areas and boundary maps get regularly redrawn to remove forest or peat areas that are of interest to plantation companies. Making it permanent doesn’t fix its fundamental weaknesses and won’t stop forest and peatland degradation in Indonesia,” he added.

The global issue of deforestation was highlighted in a report by environmental reporting charity CDP last month, which revealed 1,060 global companies were ignoring the impacts of their supply chains on the world’s forests. 

Firms such as Ikea, Sports Direct, Mondelez International, and Gap had failed to file transparency reports on deforestation risks in their commodities supply chain and actions taken to eliminate them.

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