Environmental watchdog Friends of the Earth Indonesia (WALHI) on Wednesday (29/1) called on the government to abide by a Supreme Court ruling ordering a review on all forest and plantation concession permits in Central Kalimantan and voluntarily expand this to also cover the entire country.
“There is specifically an order (for the government) to review all forest and plantation concessions in Central Kalimantan,” WALHI’s Manager for Studies and Policies Boy Jerry Even Sembiring said of the Supreme Court appeal verdict that was issued in 2019.
A citizen lawsuit was filed against the president, four ministers and the governor and provincial legislative council of Central Kalimantan in 2016 following the massive forest and ground fires that razed large swaths of forests across a number of Indonesian provinces, including Central Kalimantan, the year before that.
“It should be that the president and his ranks execute the verdict immediately,” Boy said, adding further that WALHI also urged the government to also apply the same actions for all other forests and plantation permits across the country.
Boy was talking during the launch of a WALHI report titled “A Review of the environment 2020: Sowing Investment, Harvesting a Multi-Dimensional Crisis.”
“Even through the verdict is only binding for the Central Kalimantan area, it could however, be made into a precedent, where the president orders ministries and institutions and the regional governments to evaluate permits and take other actions to overcome the problem of forest and ground fires that continue to repeat themselves in a number of other provinces,” he said.
The Supreme Court ruling ordered the president and his government to “conduct a review and revise the management permits for forests and plantations, both which had caught fire and those which had not, based on whether they had met the criteria for the permit and considering the supporting capacity of the environment in the territory of the province of Central Kalimantan.”
In September 2018, President Joko Widodo also issued a moratorium on the issuance of new oil palm plantations and also a comprehensive review of all oil palm plantation permits issued by that time. The absence of implementing regulations has so far prevented such a review to take place in the regions.
Central Kalimantan was among the Indonesian regions worst hit by the massive forest and ground fires in 2015. Although such fires have in recent years become an annual occurrence, the fires in 2015 was particularly harsh because of the extreme dry conditions caused by the El Nino weather phenomenon.
The fires sent thick acrid smoke that blanketed the region, including over neighboring countries, causing serious health and transportation hazards.