A green policy for Aceh
The Jakarta Post , Jakarta Thu, 06/14/2007 9:21 AM Opinion
Mohamad Rayan, Banda Aceh, Aceh
Aceh Governor Irwandi Jusuf declared a moratorium on logging on June 6 as part of efforts to develop a new long-term forest management strategy.
This is first installment for his environment policy -- and it's definitely a big chunk of it.
Furthermore, his environment policy is a part his economic policy.
The moratorium means logging will cease for a certain period of time in the province.
But can the policy be sustainable amid such high demands for woods and in light of the massive reconstruction project taking place in the province?
And what about community needs for wood?
Who is policing the moratorium?
Or what about the livelihoods of the community close to the forest?
On one hand, the moratorium is a brave, innovative and made with strong political will.
But on the other hand, the governor has not published his environment policy because the other side of the coin is the exploration and exploitation of natural resources outside the forest.
The reasons given for the long-term forest management policy include the disasters caused by unchecked forest exploitation.
Unchecked forest exploitation has caused flooding and land slides and has resulted in a spate of incidents involving angry animals.
Given these reasons, the moratorium is much-needed.
The moratorium can be divided into three strategic plans.
First is the redesign and evaluation of the forest areas and the logging permits.
This will need the revision of spatial management to be in line with projected needs around sustainable development.
And these needs should incorporate social, economic and ecological issues.
The permits will be reviewed for size and concession and this means there will be rationalization for the forest industry.
The industry needs to adjust to the availability of raw materials.
The industry also has to develop non-wood products.
The second strategic plan should involve reforestation to uplift the rehabilitation of the forest and its resources.
And to manage this reforestation, the government will need to find funds to carry out the tasks.
The third strategic plan is a reduction on the rate of deforestation.
The first step here is law enforcement. Then the government needs to put a system in place for the protection of the forest -- and that system must be efficient and effective.
These three strategic plans make up part the master plan for the management of Aceh's forests.
The governor however is yet to issue a more comprehensive environment policy.
Aceh has three percent of Indonesia's forests and water, where 55 percent are protected forests, 25 percent are conserved forests and 20 percent are production forests.
Aceh needs a system for environmental protection. But any policy should fully involve the people.
A policy without involving the local community will stop halfway.
For instance, the governor's moratorium on logging did make media headlines, but a couple months after the announcement, the logging will probably start again.
Without significant compensation, people will be tempted to take short cuts and they will practice illegal logging again -- especially if there is good money in it.
According to local conservation NGO Walhi Aceh, illegal logging destroyed an area four times the size of Singapore between 2005 and 2006.
This will continue without an environment policy that includes community participation and involvement.
The Aceh governor believes high economic growth can be achieved with direct foreign investment.
And there have been many countries such as Malaysia, Korea, United States, Thailand and Sweden who have expressed an interest in investing in the province.
In the exploration and the exploitation of mining, Walhi Aceh recorded 14 coal mining companies in the area of Nagan Raya, West Aceh and Aceh Jaya.
The area of exploration has been recorded at 92.034 ha, with 17 gold mining companies exploring the area of Nagan raya, South Aceh, West Aceh, Aceh Jaya and Pidie.
And with the opening of more palm oil plantations as well as other plantations and resources explorations, a comprehensive environment is urgently needed.
But how can conservation bring revenue to the government? The way to do it is to link the environment policy to the international environment issues and protocol.
Through its governor, Aceh can sell the conservation of the protected forest and other conserved forest in exchange for the global funds for the program.
So the moratorium of all logging is just the beginning.
The writer is Aceh specialist and Provincial Program Manager UNFPA-NAD.This is a private opinion