Coalition says deforestation in Papua has increased under Jokowi's watch

CNN Indonesia – February 11, 2021
Smoke from fires used to clear land for South Korean palm oil plantation in Papua – Undated (Detik)

Jakarta – The Indonesian Monitoring Coalition says that deforestation in Papua has increased under the administration of President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo. The Coalition is made up of 11 non-government organisations (NGOs).

Auriga Nusantara Foundation (AURIGA) Information and Data Director, Dedy Sukmara, said that over the last 20 years natural forest cover in Papua and West Papua provinces has declined by 663,443 hectares. As much as 71 percent of this occurred between 2011 and 2019.

"So our average rate of deforestation in Papua is 34 thousand hectares a year. And the peak was in 2015 when it reached 89 thousand hectares", Said Sukmara as quoted on Auriga Nusantara's YouTube channel on Thursday February 11.

Quoting from Sukmara, the biggest decline in forest cover occurred in Merauke regency with 123 thousand hectares, Boven Digul 51.6 thousand hectares, Nabire 32.9 thousand hectares, Bintuni Bay 33.4 thousand hectares, Sorong 33.4 thousand hectares and Fakfak 31.7 thousand hectares.

If looked at in terms of forest cover lost in Papua under successive administration, the biggest loss was during the era of President Widodo's Environment and Forestry Minister (LHK) Siti Nurbaya with as much as 298.6 thousand hectares in 2015-2019.

This is equivalent to forest loss under two forestry ministers during the era of Widodo's predecessor former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY).

Deforestation during the era of Forestry Minister MS Kaban (2005-2009) reached 102.4 thousand hectares and under Minister Zulkifli Hasan (2009-2014) 196.2 thousand hectares. Meaning the rate of deforestation over nine years of the Yudhoyono administration was the same just four years under the Widodo administration.

This trend however is different if looked at based on the release of forest area or business permits issued for forest areas under respective ministers. The most aggressive release of forest land occurred under Hasan who issued 37 business permits covering 887.1 thousand hectares.

Nurbaya meanwhile has issued 15 permits covering 254.4 thousand hectares. Nevertheless, this figure is still far higher than during the era of Forestry Minister Hasjrul Harahap under the administration of former president Suharto.

Out of all the forest areas released in Papua between 1992 and 2019, 1.3 million hectares or 84 percent was allocated for palm oil plantations.

Aside from Papua, the Indonesian Monitoring Coalition also found an increase in the rate of forest clearing between 2015 and 2019 in the provinces of Maluku, North Maluku, West Papua, Central Sulawesi, Papua and five other provinces outside of eastern Indonesia.

"This analysis shows that the trend in deforestation has shifted from forests in the western part of Indonesia to eastern Indonesia", said Sukmara.

Government denial

Responding to the report, Ministry of Environment and Forestry (KLHK) public relations head Nunu Anugrah asserted that almost all of the forest clearing in Papua and West Papua province originated from permits issued before the Widodo administration and Minister Nurbaya.

According to Anugrah, the release of forest areas and the development of palm oil plantations also results from recommendation letters for the release of forest land issued by regents, municipal heads and governors in Papua and West Papua provinces.

"The KLHK explicitly states that the report by these 11 NGOs is extremely premature because it conceals the facts on the distribution of deforestation between 2015 and 2019, it does not reveal under which administration the permits were issued", he said.

Anugrah said that the ministry will immediately issue a report on the distribution of deforestation based on the issuance of permits, particularly in Papua and West Papua provinces, in order to straighten out public perception. (fey/fra)

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "LSM: Penebangan Hutan di Papua Naik Saat Era President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo".]