PRESS RELEASE : Aceh NGOs call on the European Union to urgently mediate as conflict escalates over Aceh Parliament’s illegal land use plan
PRESS RELEASE – Aceh Forest Coalition
13/03/2014 – For immediate distribution
Aceh NGOs call on the European Union to urgently mediate as conflict escalates over Aceh Parliament’s illegal land use plan
[JAKARTA] Deputy Chairman of the Aceh Parliament, Muhammad Tanwir Mahdi, has announced to local media that Aceh Parliament rejected the Ministry of Domestic Affairs’ official evaluation of the Aceh spatial plan by-law (Qanun RTRWA) 2014-2034.
The content of the Aceh spatial plan is highly controversial, and various sources have denounced it as legally invalid. “There are many unanswered legal issues that still surround the issuance of this spatial plan by-law”, Kurniawan, SH, LLM. a legal expert from the University of Syiah Kuala of Banda Aceh, told a full press conference in Jakarta today. “The content of the proposed spatial planning law fails to recognize higher regulations, in particular ‘The Law on Governing Aceh’ (UU 11/2006) and the National Spatial Planning Law, both of which mandate the protection of the Leuser Ecosystem. The current spatial plan is technically invalid and must be revised to have any credibility”, Kurniawan, concluded.
“We welcome the evaluation that has been conducted by the Ministry of Domestic Affairs and are disappointed that Aceh Parliament has rejected this opportunity to improve the content of the law”, said Walhi Aceh (Friends of the Earth Indonesia) Chairman, Muhammad Nur. “In Aceh we suffer environmental and social problems because of the illegal land clearing from logging and palm oil that is already pushing our protected forests. The Aceh Parliament must recognize the environmental sensitivities of Aceh. Opening the protected forests causes flooding and landslides that create devastation for our people, which will only escalate with poor land use planning. We need a legally compliant spatial plan that includes the protection function of the Leuser Ecosystem. DPRA has failed to do this, and for this reason Walhi Aceh will be pushing a judicial review of the spatial plan on behalf of the community and environment of Aceh”.
“Aceh has been very fortunate to have the support of the world for many years” Said Farwiza, Chairperson of Forest Nature and Environment Aceh. “From 1992 to 2004 Aceh Government worked together with the EU on environmental and social development. We cannot forget the generosity of the world after we suffered the great losses of the 2004 tsunami, for this, I, as an Acehnese woman, will be forever grateful to the people of the world. There was a bitter 30 year civil conflict which ended with the MoU Helsinki, thanks to international facilitation. Aceh made great gains to rebuild thanks to a strong commitment to working together with the central government and international community, however, but now many in Aceh feel as if we have been forgotten, all of the gains we made together are now at risk if we can not urgently work together to find a solution to the rising social and environmental conflict that is now taking place.“
For further information please contact:
Kurniawan, SH, LLM
Legal Academic, University of Syiah Kuala of Banda Aceh
Walhi (Friends of the Earth Indonesia) Aceh Chairman,
Deputy Chairman of the Aceh Parliament, Muhammad Tanwir Mahdi, explained that the rejection was not related to the content of the law, but because delay of the evaluation by the Ministry.
He stated that the law has been submitted to the Interior Minister on December 30, 2013. But the evaluation result was only received on February 20, 2014, although it was scheduled for January 15, 2014.
“It was over the evaluation period and now is in the clarification period,” said Tanwir to Serambi on Sunday (8/3).
Since the result arrived late, the team member consisting of Aceh Lawmakers and Government considered the Central Government for indiscipline. “The Central Government must be on time and discipline. If the evaluation period is 15 days, then once the law is received, they need to evaluate immediately”, he added.
Within the evaluation letter of the Law on Spatial Plan of Aceh, 8 general points in general and 27 detail points of evaluation was included. “We have received all those evaluation result from the Interior Minister, we will not change the content of the law and we just returned it back to the Minister for clarification,” said Tanwir.
If the reply on clarification elapses the 15 days period, the Aceh Provincial Law on Spatial Plan 2014-2034 passed at the end of 2013 will be included in the Provincial Gazette. “Once it is in the Provincial Gazettem the law is valid to be applied,” concluded Tanwir.
Rhett A. Butler, mongabay.com
January 09, 2014
In a precedent-setting case, an Indonesian court has found a palm oil company guilty of violating environmental laws and ordered it to pay $30 million in fines and reparations for clearing an area of protected peat forest that is a stronghold for endangered orangutans in Indonesia’s Aceh Province.
In a ruling handed down Wednesday, the Meulaboh district court concluded that PT Kallista Alam illegally cleared and burned forest within the the protected Tripa peat swamp in northwestern Sumatra. Senior Judge Rahmawati SH ordered the company to pay 114.3 billion rupiah ($9.4 million) in compensation and 251.7 billion rupiah ($20.6 million) to restore damaged areas.
The case was seen as a test of Indonesia’s appetite for enforcing a nationwide moratorium on new plantation and logging concessions across millions of hectares of rainforests and peatlands. Kallista Alam’s activities were particularly brazen, appearing to violate the moratorium, an earlier presidential decree on conversion of deep peat areas, and the sanctity of a high conservation value area known for its orangutan population. Kallista Alam also moved forward with forest clearing without securing proper permits or sign-off from some nearby communities.
Given the circumstances, the clearing sparked international outrage with more than 1.5 million people signing various online petitions calling for greater protection of Aceh’s forests, including opposing a proposal to remove large blocks of tiger and orangutan habitat from protection. Eventually, campaigns by environmental groups pushed the senior officials in the central government and the Ministry of the Environment to call for investigations, bolstering the legal proceedings.
With the ruling, environmental campaigners now hope that the Indonesian government will step up efforts to protect forests, especially in the Leuser Ecosystem, of which Tripa is a part.
“This is a clear message to companies working in Aceh who think they can destroy protected forests and get away with it,” said Muhammad Nur, Chairman of WALHI Aceh (Friends of the Earth Indonesia), which helped lead the campaign against Kallista Alam.
“The Judge’s decision in this case clearly illustrates a move towards improved law enforcement against environmental offenders in the region,” added Kamaruddin, a lawyer for communities in the Tripa area.
Although Kallista Alam is expected the appeal the decision, the company still faces additional civil and criminal cases. According to the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme, four other palm oil companies operating in Tripa run the risk of prosecution.
“Each faces the possibility of serious financial consequences as a result of their illegal clearance, burning and drainage of Tripa’s unique peat swamp ecosystem,” said the group in a statement. “Some of the company Directors and senior management also face the prospect of prison terms in cases against them for their actions on the ground.”
While the developments in Aceh are headline-grabbing, there are still questions whether the judgements will be ultimately enforced. Courts have levied tens of billions of dollars in fines against logging, pulp and paper, mining, and palm oil companies in Sumatra in recent years, but only a tiny fraction of the penalties have ever been paid. Cases may be held up for years by appeals or quietly dropped. Prosecutors are shuffled between agencies, companies change names and laws shift.
Accordingly, Graham Usher of the PanEco Foundation says it is still too early to determine whether the Tripa case is a one-off or the emergence of a broader trend of better environmental law enforcement.
“The court’s decision is indeed a huge victory, and represents one significant step in the right direction,” Usher said in a statement. But I think many more such steps are needed before we will really see a change in the behavior of companies and officials.”
Indonesia has among the highest deforestation rates in the world, with the country losing almost half of its forest cover since 1950. Over the past twenty years, deforestation has been increasingly driven by industrial activities, including conversion for oil palm and timber plantations, intensive logging, and mining.
Deforestation has left several of Indonesia’s best-known animal species at risk of extinction, including tigers, rhinos, elephants, and orangutans, all of which live in Aceh. Forest loss has also increased social conflict in some areas, especially places with forest-dependent populations.
An Indonesian court has ordered a palm oil company to pay almost US$30 million to the state for illegally clearing peatland in a “historic” ruling, government lawyers said yesterday.
The Meulaboh district court on Sumatra island ruled on Wednesday that Indonesian company Kallista Alam had illegally burned vegetation on 1,000 hectares of peatland in Aceh province to clear it for a palm oil plantation.
In the civil case brought by the Ministry of Environment, the court ordered the company to pay 114.3 billion rupiah (HK$73 million) in losses to the state and 252 billion rupiah to rehabilitate the land it destroyed.
The forest was protected under several laws, including a presidential decree suspending new permits to log peatland and some other types of forests across the country.
Using fire to clear land is also illegal. The practice has sent choking haze across parts of Southeast Asia in recent years.
“This is a historic moment for law enforcement on environmental issues in Indonesia. We hope it will deter plantation companies from damaging the environment,” the environment ministry’s lawyer, Syafruddin, said.
The case was seen as a test of the moratorium on logging permits and of reform in the country’s corrupt and mismanaged forestry sector, which has allowed destruction of habitats to plant palm oil and timber.
Environmental groups welcomed the decision, saying it was a sign of improved law enforcement and would set a precedent.
“This is a clear message to companies working in Aceh who think they can destroy protected forests and get away with it,” Friends of the Earth Indonesia chairman Muhammad Nur said.
Indonesia, home to one of the world’s largest expanses of tropical rainforest, is also the world’s biggest palm oil producer.
The company’s lawyer, Alfian Sarumaha, said Kallista Alam would likely appeal the ruling.
Banda Aceh. A female Sumatran elephant, estimated to be seven years old, died last week in the district of Aceh Jaya, the sixth elephant death this year in Aceh.
The carcass was found on a river bank in Masen village in the subdistrict of Sampoiniet, Aceh Jaya, on Monday. The animal was estimated to have died a week ago and investigators could not confirm the cause of death on Dec. 3.
“Local residents said the elephant died because it was caught in a trap — there’s a rope on its leg,” Amon Zamora, the head of Aceh’s Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA), told the Jakarta Globe on Tuesday. “The BKSDA team sent to the location is still conducting an investigation.”
Amon said the team was performing an autopsy to investigate the cause of the death, including whether or not the animal had been poisoned — am increasingly common cause of elephant deaths in Aceh.
The recent finding brings the number of elephants found dead in Aceh in 2013 to six.
In May, a 10-year-old male elephant died due to electrocution in Bangkeh village in the Pidie district.
In June, a two-year-old elephant calf died in Blang Plante village in North Aceh, two months after villagers took the animal in after it was left behind by its herd in a nearby plantation.
On July 13, a 30-year-old male elephant was found dead in Ranto Sabon village in Aceh Jaya after being caught in a metal trap.
On July 27, two elephant carcasses were found decaying in an oil palm plantation run by state-owned plantation firm PTPN I in Blang Tualang village in East Aceh district.
Amon said elephant-human conflicts had become widespread across 19 out of 23 districts and municipalities in Aceh, with Aceh Jaya, East Aceh, Pidie, South Aceh, Singkil and North Aceh reporting the most problems.
“The conflicts keep happening because the routes used by elephants have been converted into plantations,” he said. “We’ve called on people several times against disturbing the elephants’ pathway, but it keeps happening.”
Amon said only around 200 Sumatrans elephants remained in the wild in Aceh forests.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has classified Sumatran elephants as critically endangered. The population in the wild — spread over Sumatra and Borneo — is estimated at between 2,400 and 2,800 individuals.
The Worldwide Fund for Nature says around 70 percent of the Sumatran elephant’s habitat has been destroyed by deforestation in the last 25 years.
We are writing requesting you to lend your voice to a positive campaign to improve the protection and management of the Leuser Ecosystem (KEL) in Aceh, Sumatra. By faxing the attached letter, to the Governor Aceh, and the provided contact list in attachment, you will greatly emphasise the full list of recipients. In addition we hope this action will gain media attention and act as a catalyst for garnering further support for this campaign.
The attached letter urges the Governor of Aceh to nominate KEL to become a new UNESCO World Heritage Site (WHS). You are likely aware of the recent Science article (Le Saout et al., 2013) in which KEL was identified as one of the world’s foremost exceptionally irreplaceable areas for the conservation of threatened species. KEL is already recognized as a protected area under National law in Indonesia, not least due to its critical ecological services to communities, agriculture and industry. A nomination for World Heritage status would build upon this national and international recognition.
You may also be aware of the controversial spatial plan proposed by Aceh Parliament which received a great deal of media attention this year. Recently we have learned that a ‘Pergub’ has also been drafted: a Governors Law on KEL that would ‘legalize’ widespread damage to the critically important lowlands of the NE in particular. This is currently being aggressively pursued in order to push it through before the end of the year, disregarding calls by experts to wait for environmental sensitivity analyses of these irreplaceable areas.
A united positive message from the international scientific community now would therefore be extremely timely. Receiving a large volume of signed faxes from scientists and leading international institutions will highlight the incompatibility of a nomination for World Heritage status with the current Aceh spatial plan and impress upon the Governor of Aceh the fact that our community is paying close attention to the management and protection of this area.
The letter is addressed to the Governor of Aceh and we also ask you to fax the letter to various overseas embassies and the donor/aid community in an attempt to highlight a better way forward for Aceh. The aim is to create a situation in which these organisations can support the Aceh Government with technical expertise and funding to create and implement a scientifically sound spatial plan. A viable plan will maintain the biodiversity and environmental function of Aceh’s forests (e.g., water resources, mitigation of natural disasters), whilst maximising the opportunities for long-term sustainable economic development for Aceh.
We appreciate the effort required to send these as fax, but emails alone risk being drowned out in a “wave of protest” as we also have 4 public email petitions supporting this WHS nomination in preparation. By sending this as fax is separates this action from the easy click petitions, and highlights the importance of this action. Therefore, if you are willing to put your name to the attached letter, we ask that you aim for the highest impact possible and fax it as soon as possible to the list below. The costs of faxing are only manageable shared between us all.
Please find list of contacts and fax numbers in an attachment at the bottom of this post.
If you cannot fax from your institution’s fax machine, here is a link with methods to fax from your computer if you have a landline attached, or by using online services*: http://www.wikihow.com/Fax-Without-Using-a-Fax-Machine
(*Note that you will need to sign up for a 30 day free trial to use some free online fax services, be sure to cancel if you don’t wish to pay a monthly subscription fee beyond that).
Please email a scan of your letter letting us know that you have taken this action to: email@example.com
We appreciate you sharing this email with your networks.
Ian Singleton1 and Rudi Putra2
1Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme
2Future for Nature Award Winner (2013)
sample letter from GRASP letter Aceh Governor
The two-day event (20 to 21 Nov) was attended by representatives of Mukim Association, NGOs, UKP4, donor institutions and academicians. The workshop event was intended to criticize and to advocate the Draft Provincial Law (Qanun) on Aceh’s Spatial Plan, which will be approved by the Parliament of Aceh by the end of this year. The workshop has resulted following recommendations:
1. That spatial plan of Aceh does not yet balance the ecological, economical and social interests, therefore the needs for inclusion of articles in the draft law in terms of adjusting economic activities within ecological areas for not to disturb the areas protection functions; to evaluate companies abandoning their existing concessions; to add point e at the end of Paragraph 2 of the Article 47 with “Leuser Ecosystem as National Strategic Area” (in conjunction
with other Articles related to Leuser Ecosystem); to include Ulu Masen into Aceh Provincial Strategic Area (preparation for carbon stock); to include spatial plan of the area of mukim; to include wildlife corridor; to establish a special team to evaluate the development of economic zones that consider the environmental aspects;
2. Considering Water Catchment Areas, some steps are to be taken: to give directions in the management of water catchment areas based on the principles of local knowledge; reforestation;
3. Recommendations in the aspects of natural disaster, consisting of: data crosscheck with institutions holding disaster data such as soil sensitivity maps, wild life conflict and wildlife corridors; comprehensive review of the aspects of natural disaster of Aceh’s spatial plan;
4. Concerning disharmony at national, provincial and district levels, following ssteps are recommended: academic studies on the harmonisation of the existing regulations at both central and provincial levels focusing in those related to Aceh’s spatial plan, including considerate studies and profound studies.
Recommendations resulted from this workshop will be submitted to the provincial government and the Parliament of Aceh that are now “cooking” the spatial plan.
Meanwhile, Frans Siahaan from Asia Foundation addressed in his closing speech that until now this institution has no special program for Aceh. “We have yet no program for Aceh. But all that achieved together today can hopefully accepted as our starting commitment”.
As for the speaker of KPHA, Efendi Isma, hoped that the recommendations resulted by the workshop participants can be useful for Aceh. “I will keep everyone updated. Thank you for the participation in these two days, hopefully this can become useful for Aceh,” concluded Efendi Isma. (Arunda) RTRWA