Ten Years After the Tsunami, Aceh Faces New “Development Disasters”
10 years after the 2004 tsunami that claimed over 200,000 lives in Aceh, the province remains highly vulnerable to disasters.
At a Public Discussion held at the Hermes Palace Hotel on Saturday a panel of experts raised some of the issues. Panellists included Dr Ian Singleton (Anthopologist and Researcher from Yayasan Ekosistem Lestari/SOCP), Muhammad Fadil, S.T., M.T. (Kepala Bidang Perencanaan Pembangunan Sarana dan Prasarana, BAPPEDA Aceh), Mawardi Ismail, SH., M.Hum (Academic/Legal Expert Universitas Syiah Kuala) and Efendi Isma, S.Hut (Speaking on behalf of the Coalition Concerned for Aceh Forests /KPHA).
The panelists highlighted the fact that in just the past year, as of 24 December 2014, Aceh has experienced at least 70 major environmental disasters, comprising 21 landslides, 13 droughts, and 36 floods. Flash floods alone regularly cause massive damage to infrastructure in Aceh, even loss of lives, and immeasurable losses to local economies through destruction of crops and agriculture. There are currently more than 25,000 people displaced from the latest floods, in just the last 2 weeks, with 19,000 in Aceh Timur alone.
These disasters, exacerbated by unsustainable development projects, have multiple negative humanitarian, ecological and economic impacts, and undermine the billions of dollars of aid and investment that followed the tsunami. The scale of unsustainable development in Aceh indicates that poor planning and policies concerning resource and disaster risk management are largely to blame for many of these undesired consequences.
As pointed out by Efendi Isma, “The key concern now is the Province’s new spatial land-use plan “Rencana Tata Ruang Wilayah Aceh 2014-2034”, legalized at the provincial level as Qanun 19, also known as Qanun RTRWA. Although approved in Aceh, the Ministry of Home Affairs has highlighted numerous key points that must be amended before the plan can be approved by the national government. One of the main concerns is the fact that the Leuser Ecosystem is not even mentioned in the plan.”
“The Leuser Ecosystem is listed by the World Conservation Union (IUCN) as one of the “World’s Most Irreplaceable Places”. It is an area of unparalleled biodiversity in the region and the only place in the world where the Sumatran orangutan, rhino, elephant and tiger can be found living together side by side. The Ecosystem also provides essential services: water for agriculture and regulates flooding as well as prevents soil erosion/landslides protecting the 4 million people living downstream of the area. It is also a National Strategic Area for its Environmental Function, whose protection is required under National Law.” He added.
Marwadi Ismail, Fakultas Hukum, University of Syiah Kuala explained “By not even mentioning the Leuser Ecosystem the Qanun RTRWA is clearly breaching a number of National Laws, even Aceh’s own Governance Law. There are also irregularities in its development that should be examined and rectified as quickly as possible.”
Rather than ignoring areas like Leuser, that are protected for a reason, the Qanun RTRWA should instead represent a legal and political commitment by the Aceh government to protect its valuable forests and the essential services they provide.
Dr Ian Singleton, Director of the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme stated, “The old idea of environmental protection being against economic development needs to be quickly forgotten. Conservation is very much in the interests of long term sustained economic progress. It is indeed, however, against short-sighted, short-term over exploitation of resources for quick profits.”
The prospects of sustainable and inclusive development in Aceh are clearly being jeopardized by the Province’s Qanun RTRWA, unless it is immediately revoked or amended. Aceh is in a position to formulate a more future-oriented perspective, that equally integrates socio-economic and environmental aspects in its long-term development plan. The data is there already to do this, from a number of comprehensive and detailed reviews and environmental sensitivity analyses carried out in Aceh since the tsunami, but to date these have largely been ignored. A new land use plan is essential for Aceh to make real progress towards its ultimate goal of sustained, long-term economic development.
Contact details :
1. Mawardi Ismail, SH., M.Hum (Academic/Legal Expert, Universitas Syiah Kuala). Email: email@example.com. Tel: +62 811 681704
2. Efendi Isma, S.Hut (Coalition Concerned for Aceh Forests /KPHA). Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Tel: +62 813 6016055
3. Muhammad Fadil, S.T., M.T. (Kepala Bidang Perencanaan Pembangunan Sarana dan Prasarana, BAPPEDA Aceh). Tel: +62 852 60726077
4. Dr Ian Singleton (Anthropologist and Researcher from Yayasan Ekosistem Lestari/SOCP). Email: email@example.com. Tel: +62 811 650491.
Today is the International Day of Action: Thanks for all the pictures, mails, tweets, sharing and likes. Guys, you are amazing!
Now it’s definitely time for Indonesia’s President SB Yudhoyono to take action! He has to cancel the illegal spatial plan in Aceh before he walks out of office.
Download the poster with all the pictures here.
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,
Photo Credit : Paul Hilton / Forest, Nature and Environment Aceh
[MEDAN, NORTH SUMATRA] A large demonstration initiated by controversial palm oil company Pt Kalista Alam, who is accused of illegally destroying some of the world’s most important remaining orangutan habitat on the west coast of Sumatra, has disrupted the Meulaboh district court today where the Indonesian Ministry of Environment is prosecuting the company for environmental crimes. The potentially precedent-setting case has received international attention and is being monitored closely by NGOs, scientists, the government and industry alike.
The court was temporarily delayed as an estimated 150 palm oil workers, who arrived by busses believed to be paid by Pt Kalista Alam, conducted a noisy demonstration before the court, demanding the court find in favour of the controversial company. The same company had one of its palm oil concessions cancelled in September 2012, after administrational courts found the permit had been granted illegally, and last week its assets were frozen by the civil court as its process draws to an expected close. The final hearing has now been scheduled for December 5th where now the judges are expected to deliver a final ruling.
“PT Kallista Alam is one of several palm oil companies illegally burning forests on deep peat within the Leuser Ecosystem during the last few years” Said Dr Ian Singleton, Director of the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme, speaking at a packed media event outside a major international RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil) conference in Medan earlier today. “We congratulate the Indonesian Ministry of Environment on its action against PT Kallista Alam, but also remind people that a potentially devastating new spatial plan being proposed by the Provincial Government still threatens huge swathes of Aceh’s forests and their incredibly unique biodiversity, in addition to Aceh’s people and their economic livelihoods. If approved, this new plan is likely to lead to an upsurge of new legal cases due to the massive increase in environmental damage it will undoubtedly cause.”
“If the new spatial plan goes through it will be the the end of the Sumatran Elephant” Dr Singleton concluded.
“There can only be one word to describe the situation for the Leuser Ecosytem, and it’s emergency.” warned Kamaruddin SH, an Acehnese lawyer who represented communities in Tripa with their complaints against PT Kallista Alam. “The Leuser Ecosystem is a Nationally Strategic Area protected for its Environmental Function, It is currently illegal for any district, provincial or national leader to issue permits for palm oil, mining or any other activity that would degrade the environmental function of the Leuser Ecosystem, but powerful business lobby is currently trying to undo this, not to support community, but to line their pockets with the assets of Aceh. Todays show of intimidation by Pt Kalista Alam outside the court in Meulaboh is just one example of many companies attempting to intimidate the legal and political processes of Aceh, it deserves close scrutiny from anti corruption and legal agencies.
Landscape planning and GIS specialist, Graham Usher, showed satellite information and data analysis that highlighted the extreme sensitivity of Aceh’s environment. “Much of Aceh’s remaining forests are on steeply sloping terrain, that should be off limits to development under existing spatial planning regulations. Clearing forests and building roads in such areas is simply not safe, and potentially disastrous.
“What will happen if these forests are cleared is very clear, and easy to predict. We will see a collapse of the ecosystem, and the loss of the environmental benefits they provide to Aceh’s people. This will lead to food security problems in the future, in addition to a huge increase in flash floods, erosion and landlsides. It’s not rocket science”, he stressed. “it’s simply cause and effect. To open new roads and exploitive industrial concessions in the heart of Aceh will only result in even further destruction, and lead to a rash of new, entirely avoidable, social conflicts. It’s not only unique biodiversity that will suffer, Aceh’s people will suffer greatly as well!”
“Aceh is currently suffering from environmental anarchy, there is next to no law enforcement, and local elites are left to take what they want without monitoring or fear of legal consequences.”
“The community of Aceh feels that promises have been broken” stated TM Zulfikar, former Chairman of Friends of the Earth, Aceh. While many supported Governor Zaini in his election, there is now increasing frustration and anger being expressed towards his administration. “If we’d known Aceh was going to be carved up, cut down, and sold to the highest bidder most would probably have voted differently.
“Recently the Aceh Government told us at a public meeting that there is no budget left for the development of the Province’s spatial planning and that it therefore needs to be approved and ratified before the end of December. But they have still not completed any environmental sensitivity analysis and key data and information has failed to be shared. I seriously worry what the Government will do in the next two months. If things happen as we hear, he will forever be recorded in history as the Governor who returned Aceh to social conflict and environmental destruction.” Concluded Mr Zulfikar.
Gemma Tillack with Rainforest Action Network called on international consumer companies who use palm oil in their products to demand that their suppliers verifiably guarantee that the oil they supply is not connected to rainforest destruction like that taking place in Tripa. “Tripa and the Leuser Ecosystem are globally important areas. It is imperative that consumer companies take responsibility for the fact that Conflict Palm Oil like that produced at the expense of the Tripa peat swamp is making its way into the global marketplace. Companies like the “Snack Food 20” targeted by Rainforest Action Network (RAN) urgently need to engage with their supply chains and implement truly responsible palm oil procurement policies that demand palm oil be produced without contributing to rainforest destruction, climate pollution or human rights abuses.”
For further information please contact:
Dr Ian Singleton
Conservation Director, Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Program (SOCP)
Landscape Sensitivity Analyst, PanEco Foundation
Aceh Communications Officer, Yayasan Ekosistem Lestari (YEL)
Lawyer for Tripa Community Coalition
Senior Agribusiness Campaigner, Rainforest Action Network
Region’s Smog Shows Need for Better Oversight; More Than US$7 Billion Lost
The 61-page report, “The Dark Side of Green Growth: Human Rights Impacts of Weak Governance in Indonesia’s Forestry Sector,” finds that illegal logging and forest-sector mismanagement resulted in losses to the Indonesian government of more than US$7 billion between 2007 and 2011. Indonesia recently introduced reforms to address some of these concerns and has been touting its forestry policies as a model of sustainable ‘green growth.’ But much logging in Indonesia remains off-the-books, fees are set artificially low, and existing laws and regulations are often flaunted. A “zero burning” policy and a moratorium on forest clearing are manifestly inadequate.
“The return of the smog is only the most tangible evidence of the damage from Indonesia’s continuing failure to effectively manage its forests,” said Joe Saunders, deputy program director at Human Rights Watch. “Weak law enforcement, mismanagement, and corruption are to blame not only for the smog but also for the loss of billions of dollars a year in desperately needed public funds.”
The persistent failures have global implications. The smog causing so much suffering for Indonesia’s neighbors is produced by clearing forests for agriculture, a practice so widespread that it makes Indonesia’s carbon emissions among the largest in the world. The Obama administration announced on June 26, 2013, that it would invest more in sustainable forestry overseas as a way to combat climate change. However, without improvements in governance in Indonesia, greater investments by the international community may not bring significant change in the status quo.
The Indonesian government recently introduced reforms in part aimed at addressing forest mismanagement and corruption, including a timber legality certification system and a freedom of information law, but such efforts have fallen far short of their aims. The new report, an update to the 2009 Human Rights Watch report “Wild Money,” analyzes industry and government data, concluding that the pace of revenue loss has actually increased in recent years. In 2011 alone, the losses totaled more than $2 billion – more than the country’s entire health budget for that year, undermining the government’s ability to provide basic services to its population, Human Rights Watch said.
It is not only during the dry season that Indonesians suffer the negative consequences of forest mismanagement. The significant loss of revenues contributes to the government’s disappointing progress on a number of human rights concerns, notably those related to rural health care.
Indonesia’s forest communities, among the country’s poorest groups, have been harmed the most under the current system. Many of these communities have constitutionally recognized rights to use the land and forests or be adequately compensated for their loss. But the new legality certification system does not address whether timber is harvested in violation of community rights to forest lands.
Increasing demand for land to expand plantations appears to be leading to more violent land conflicts, Human Rights Watch said. The problem is especially acute on the island of Sumatra, where the majority of pulp and oil palm plantations – and most of this year’s fire hotspots – are located, often on land claimed by local communities. The government’s failure to comply with its own regulations for issuing concessions on forest land claimed by communities and its failure to hold companies accountable for violating legally required compensation agreements have led to an escalation in disputes. For example, in 2011, the escalation of long standing land disputes associated with an oil palm plantation in the Mesuji sub-district of South Sumatra led to violent clashes between local villagers and company security, leaving two local farmers and seven company staff dead.
In May the Constitutional Court ruled that the government’s practice of allocating concessions on customary land is unconstitutional, offering some hope to those communities. However, in the current climate of opaque, unaccountable forest governance, without adequate participation and oversight, identifying and registering rights to these lucrative forestlands could easily result in more, rather than fewer conflicts, Human Rights Watch said.
21/05/2013 -Press Release For Immediate distribution
Aceh Forests facing numerous threats
“the threats to Aceh forest are not as black and white as one plan”
[BANDA ACEH] “The threats to Aceh forest are not as ‘black and white’ as just one plan.” Explained Rudi Putra, Avaaz petition starter, “Acehs forests are facing numerous threats; illegal permits to open forests are being issued before the spatial plan is even agreed, land status is being downgraded, illegal logging continues, roads are being pushed through protected areas and poaching of protected wildlife continues in the field. The Government continues to push its agenda without transparency or opportunities to discuss the combined impacts of all the threats. Instead it seems to be responding to criticisms one by one, as only minor issues, in an attempt to mask the combined large scale and long term impacts that will result.” He continued.
In this last week over 1.2 million signatures have been added to an international petition calling on Indonesian President SBY and Aceh Governor Zaini to “reject the plan to cut down protected rainforests in Aceh.” Indonesia’s majestic forests are a global treasure, and we encourage engagement with the local community to develop a plan that prioritises sustainable development, and protects this fragile ecosystem and the animals that live there.” (1)
The campaign to protect and restore Aceh’s threatened forests continues to gather international attention after Head of the President’s Delivery Unit for Development, Monitoring & Oversight (UKP-PPP), Kuntoro Mangkusubroto, issued a press release questioning the source for the figures used in the debate. (2)
Rudi Putra added, “Pak Kuntoro is right. I agree that the information of the scale of the threat is drawn from a comparison of the former spatial plan from 2010, that aimed to protect 68% of Aceh’s land cover as forest, and the new plan currently being pushed, that will reduce this area to just 45%. Chairman of the Aceh Parliament’s Spatial Planning Committee made this statement in the Sydney Morning Herald earlier this year (3), and since that time, many media, NGO reports and even company websites have used the same figure.
“What we must focus on here though”, Putra continued, “is the problems already being caused by clearance of Aceh’s forests, and the threats posed by any further destruction and clearing of these forests, which will make things even worse. Even without cutting the forest, natural landslides and flash floods occur in Aceh on a regular basis, and when forests are cleared these disasters occur much more often and are much more severe. This is already impacting the community of Aceh, we should be working to reduce these threats, not to increase them.
“The Leuser Ecosystem is already protected by Law on Governing Aceh, law No 11/2006 and National Spatial Planning Law No 26/2007 and Government Regulation No 26/2008 as a ‘National Strategic Area for its Environmental Protection Function’, meaning that any development within the Leuser Ecosystem that damages its environmental protection function is illegal. Leuser acts as a life support for approximately four million people living around it by providing a steady supply of water, soil fertility, flood control, climate regulation and pest mitigation. The provincial spatial plan for Aceh must comply with existing National Laws protecting the Leuser Ecosystem, you can not simply ignore these laws to open up the forests for logging and mining. We are also extremely concerned about reports that roads are already being built, before any construction permits have even be granted”. Concluded Putra
Over the last few weeks major flooding has seriously impacted many districts of Aceh. Vice-Governor Muzakir Manaf, who visited the affected areas in Aceh Singkil on Thursday 16 May, told Aceh newspapers reporters that “the cause of the flooding is illegal logging and encroachment of forests” (4)
Graham Usher, a Landscape Protection Specialist who was involved in the environmental sensitivity analysis conducted in 2008 as part of the development of the previous Aceh Government’s forestry redesign process, welcomes Pak Kuntoro’s recommendation that a Strategic Environmental Assessment be carried out. “Both our environmental analysis, and a similar exercise carried out by the Asian Development Bank, estimated that between 63% and 68% of Aceh is very sensitive to disturbance, and that maintaining intact primary and restoring degraded forest cover was the best strategy for avoiding future environmental disasters. At the time, our recommendation was that the smart strategy was to expand forest cover, by restoring already degraded areas, ensuring both maintenance of environmental services and guaranteeing safe sources of timber for the future. But now, the key aspect of the new Aceh Government’s spatial plan is how much of these very sensitive areas are to be threatened with expansion of logging, road building, plantations and mining, even if they officially classified as forests. Aceh’s people know very well that any disturbance of forests in these areas results in devastating landslides, floods and complete changes to river systems. I think over 1 million people signed this petition because they share the concerns of Aceh’s people, and because they care about the fate of tigers, elephants, orangutans and rhinos, the incredible biodiversity of Aceh’s forests, and global climate change. If the current Aceh Government is, as it appears to be, determined on reactivating logging concessions in sensitive areas, pushing new roads through intact forests, and breaking up the Leuser Ecosystem, then people are quite right to express their concerns.”
The latest study from the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Indonesia found that the local administration in Aceh is the worst performer when it comes to protecting the country’s remaining forests. (5)
For further media comment:
+62 813 6088 2455
Avaaz Petition starter
+62 877 6639 4260
Landscape Protection Specialist
PRESS RELEASE – 18 May 2013
MORE THAN 1,000,000 INTERNATIONAL SUPPORT URGE PRESIDENT YUDHOYONO TO SAVE ACEH FOREST
Jakarta – Today, an astounding progress for the #SaveAceh campaign; over one million have backed a campaign launched by Indonesian conservationist Rudi Putra, urging President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to intervene in the Aceh forest rezoning plan that would put orangutans, rhinos, tigers, elephants and other critically endangered wildlife at risk.
Rudi says “The forests of Aceh, home to endangered Sumatran orangutans and rhinos, are already being decimated by poachers and illegal loggers — but this plan would be truly catastrophic. Right now Aceh is already suffering from environmental disasters, floods are claiming lives and destroy properties along the west coast. The President and Governor need to intervene to stop the deadly landslides and flash floods that a mining and logging free-for-all would let loose on local communities.”
One key area falling under the proposed provincial spatial rezoning plan, is the National Strategic Area for Environmental Protection Function the Leuser Ecosystem, protected under Law 26/2007 and Government Regulation 26/2008, which is home to around 5,800 of the remaining 6000 critically endangered Sumatran orangutans, according to the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme. The Aceh provincial plan seeks to ignore National Spatial planning law 26/2007 Government Regulation 26/2008, resulting in the Leuser Ecosystem losing it’s protected status, which would allow extractive activity such as logging, mining and road building to take place.
Ian Bassin, Campaign Director of Avaaz said: “President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has a choice: to leave a strong legacy of protecting Indonesia’s natural resources or trash his green record by greenlighting this deal. More than 1 million people are urging him to stop the gold miners and loggers from raping Aceh’s forests and wiping out Indonesia’s most iconic wildlife.”
According to Co-Founder of Change.org Indonesia Usman Hamid, over a million signatures for Rudi’s petition in Avaaz.org shows tremendous solidarity from the international community to the #SaveAceh movement to urge the Aceh governor to cancel the destructive spatial planning law.
Canadian company gets heat from Canadians on Aceh deforestation
The rezoning plan, which according to Canada based East Asia Minerals press release, http://www.eaminerals.com/press-releases/229.pdf “would open more than a million hectares of forest in Aceh Province for mining logging and palm oil production” In the same release, the company claims to be working closely with the Government officials to obtain reclassification of ‘protected forest’ to ‘production forests’.
East Asia Minerals applauded the destructive plan for Aceh through a press release which created a strong backlash and a surge of thousands of signatures from Canada through Change.org petition http://www.change.org/SaveAceh showing that it is now a rising issue in Canada as well.
Laura Burden from Burnaby, BC, Canada says “I want my government to stop exploiting other countries and protect our fragile world instead.”
While Fred Oliff from Cambridge, Canada says “Canadian companies operating in foreign countries should be held to the same restrictions they would be in their own country.”
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