By Marisa Chimprabha
Moratorium initially imposed in 2011 aimed at protecting country's ecosystem
Indonesia is extending the moratorium on new licences for business in primary natural forests and peat lands, which expired yesterday, said an Indonesian deputy minister of environment and forestry.
“The draft of the new moratorium is being finalised and will be issued soon.
“But despite an existing moratorium expiring, no new licences will be issued in the meantime,”
said Arief Yuwono, who oversees the controls on environmental degradation and climate change.
He was speaking on the sidelines of the second Singapore Dialogue on Sustainable World Resources held
by the Singapore Institute of International Affairs in the city-state.
The moratorium was introduced in 2011 by then-Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudho-yono, who extended it in 2013. The measure was initiated to protect primary forest and peat land covering more than 60 million hectares, including in Sumatra and Kalimantan.
The decision has been praised as an important step in the protection of the degrading forests in the country. Yuwono told reporters in a group interview that the moratorium provided room for the ecosystem to recover as well as allowing time for
the government to improve its
management of the forest environment.
The government also took the opportunity during the ban to map the forest and peat-land areas of the whole country.
Yuwono also mentioned his country’s proposal to house an Asean coordinating centre on monitoring and preventing forest fires and haze with the belief that regional cooperation could solve these problems.
Besides Indonesia, Malaysia has expressed an interest in hosting the centre.
The centre will be set up under the ambit of the Asean Agreement on Trans-boundary Haze Pollution ratified by the grouping recently.
Every year, forest fires in Indonesia cause massive haze that spreads to neighbouring countries including the Southern region of Thailand.
“I hope that Asean members that will meet in September this year will choose Indonesia to house the centre,” Yuwono said, adding that the centre will be where member countries input information and cooperation to tackle the issue.
In his speech at the dialogue, he also called for a balance among economic development, social issues and the environment.
He said he realised that 60 per cent of Indonesia’s exported commodities relied on natural resource-based industries, with the biggest share from mineral fuel and lubricants as well as animal and vegetable oils and fats.
“It means that the centre of development is the sustainability of the environment to support social human welfare,” he said.
“Therefore, a synergised approach among social, economic and environmental principles was needed.
He also suggested that investment in plantation-based industries, including pulp and paper as well as oil palm, was still promising from an economic point of view.
This kind of investment is labour-intensive, which is good as Indonesia’s unemployment rate is high.
However, he said dedicating more land for oil-palm plantations would have impacts on the environment, including the use of fire for land clearing.