BOGOR, Indonesia (25 January, 2012) _ Following a moratorium on new logging concessions last year, Indonesia has allocated 45 percent of Kalimantan, the country’s part of Borneo island, to remain as conservation and forested areas and serve as “the lungs of the world.”
The move was part of Presidential Regulation no. 3/2012 on Kalimantan’s spatial plan, signed by Indonesia’s leader, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, early in January and announced last week. A calculation by this writer would suggest that the regulation may, in effect, protect 24.6 million hectares of mostly land in Kalimantan, seven months after the government announced a two-year moratorium on new logging concessions nationwide. According to an analysis published last year by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), the moratorium protects 16.1 million hectares of Kalimantan’s forests and peatlands. This would therefore suggest that the new presidential regulation may have added 8.5 million hectares of protected areas on the island, however further details would be needed to confirm this.
“We would need to see a map and understand better what this decree means in practice,” said Louis Verchot, CIFOR’s Principal Scientist. “If there is no increased protection of peatlands, this will contribute little to meeting Indonesia’s emission reduction objectives. From an environmental and sustainable development perspective, it is also critical to protect the headwaters of major river systems in the Heart of Borneo.”
Peatlands are critical in the fight to slow global warming as their carbon density can be as much as 5-10 times that of forest on mineral soils, per unit area. The new regulation stipulates that the government will “maintain and preserve peatlands to sustain the natural water system and ecosystems” in Kalimantan, which has an estimated 5.7 million hectares of peatlands, of which about 2.3 million hectares are deeper than 2 meters.
“Preserving peatlands can be done if the rights to these areas haven’t already been given away” under agriculture, mining or other licenses to convert, said Daniel Murdiyarso, a Senior Scientist at CIFOR and lead author of the moratorium study. One way to avoid conversions is to allow companies to restore degraded peatlands and to swap their allocated peatlands with degraded forests on mineral soil, he said.
Aside from preserving areas with endemic species, ecosystem corridors between conservation areas will be developed in Kalimantan, protected areas strengthened and degraded protected areas rehabilitated, according to the new regulation. The government will also control cultivation activities that may disturb protected zones, it said.
Kalimantan makes up more than three quarters of Borneo, the world’s third largest island. Renowned as a biodiversity hot spot, Borneo is home to not only the iconic orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus), but also to as many as 15,000 species of flowering plants (MacKinnon et al., 1996).
Indonesia’s forest concessions moratorium is part of the country’s efforts to meet its commitment to cut emissions by 26 percent from business-as-usual levels by 2020 on its own and by 41 percent with outside assistance.
In its analysis of the moratorium, CIFOR recommended that the Indonesian government should use the two-year period to “speed up forest and landscape governance planning by using improved tools, enhanced capacity and binding regulations, supported by a stronger institutional arrangement.”
The Ministry of Forestry has issued an indicative map, which will be updated every six months following inspection on the ground, to show the areas protected under the moratorium. The first revision of the map in December last year reduced the moratorium coverage by 3.6 million hectares. This includes a reduction of 4.8 million hectares of peatlands and an increase of 1.2 million hectares of primary forests.
Indonesia is developing policies and regulations to implement REDD+, short for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation, which is a global climate change scheme to compensate developing countries that protect their forests. Central Kalimantan, one of the four provinces in Kalimantan, has been selected as a pilot province for REDD+.
According to local governments’ websites, West Kalimantan has a total area of 14.7 million hectares, Central Kalimantan 15.4 million hectares, South Kalimantan 3.7 million hectares and East Kalimantan 20.9 million hectares. These provincial governments will have to develop or adjust their spatial plans to implement the presidential regulation.