Adianto P. Simamora
Environmental activists have condemned the government’s plan to classify oil
palm plantations as forests, calling it a ploy to legalize forest
Activists from Forest Watch Indonesia (FWI), Telapak and the
Indonesian Forum for the
Environment (Walhi) called on the Forestry Ministry to rescind the plan if
the government was serious in efforts to safeguard the country’s already
FWI executive director Wirendro Sumargo said the plan would increase the
threat to forests because it would allow local authorities to easily
reallocate forest use to increase their budgets.
“It would not be surprising that under the new decree, natural forests can
be easily converted for business uses,” Wirendro told The Jakarta Post .
“It also seems the plan is aimed at legalizing illegal oil palm plantations
currently operating in forests.”
He insisted the ministry take legal action against illegal oil palm
companies operating in forests not allocated for business use.
With the decree, the Forestry Ministry is aping several countries such as
Malaysia. Coincidentally, Indonesia and Malaysia are the world’s largest
producers of palm oil.
The ministry claims the decree would not lead to massive forest conversions.
The program coordinator at Bogor-based Telapak Indonesia, Hap-soro, accused
the ministry of not committing to protect forests.
“The concept of calling an oil palm plantation a forest has no basis in
fact. It is merely a cover to allow investors to convert forests,” he told
“Even without the decree, the government has failed to control the growth of
illegal oil palm plantations.”
Currently, oil palm plantations cover 7 million hectares of land, with 3
million hectares belonging to individuals, another 3 million to private
companies and 1 million to state-owned plantation company PTPN.
Environmentalists claim some plantations were developed in forests not
designated for agriculture.
National Forestry Council member Hariadi Kartodiharjo said development of
the palm oil industry should be focused on idle forest land.
“I don’t believe the decree will be used to convert natural forests,” he
He said that in the past, Indonesia had rejected proposals by the Food and
Agriculture Organization (FAO) to link oil palm plantations to forests.
These proposals were eventually implemented in Malaysia.
“Oil palm plantations would seriously threaten biodiversity,” he said.
Walhi climate campaigner Teguh Surya said the decree would not only
accelerate forest damage, but would legalize deforestation across the
“Don’t expect the next generation to still have forests in the future. The
decree will also kill the nation’s character,” he said.
He said President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono should intervene or else the
government would never meet its pledged emission target cut of 26 percent by