Activists Call on Jokowi to Extend Forest Moratorium

MARCH 23, 2015

Jakarta. Environmental group Greenpeace has demanded that President Joko Widodo extends a moratorium on new forest concessions, which is due to end in less than three months, after the government and the national antigraft agency signed a joint agreement last week to stamp out corruption in the forestry industry.

“Greenpeace welcomes this anti-corruption approach to protect Indonesia’s natural resources,” said Bustar Maitar, the global head of Greenpeace’s Indonesia Forest Campaign.

“President Joko Widodo has the power to save Indonesia’s remaining forests. Overlapping concessions and weak management of natural resources, especially forests, are connected to corruption,” he added.

Bustar believes the memorandum of understanding would take time to deliver results.

“When he visited Riau’s embattled peatlands last November, the president promised to extend the forest moratorium, but we have not yet seen a follow-up on that promise,” the activist said.

Since the current moratorium is due to expire in less than 60 days, the most urgent step, Bustar said, is for Joko to extend it.

In addition to urging an extension of the forest moratorium, Greenpeace also seeks the cancelation of plans to build Southeast Asia’s largest coal power plant in Batang, Central Java, after Japanese and Indonesian environmental groups joined the affected community to oppose the project.

Friends of the Earth Japan; the KIKO Network; Japan Center for a Sustainable Environment and Society; the Network for Indonesian Democracy; and Greenpeace Indonesia joined community members in raising their concerns with the Japanese government, Itochu, J-Power and the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC).

“Japanese civil society stands shoulder to shoulder in solidarity with the people of Indonesia, who will be affected by this dirty coal project. We do not want our public money to pay for human rights abuses and pollution, no matter where it is,” said Hozue Hatae from Friends of the Earth Japan.

The Japanese government and JBIC have pledged to support development of the Batang coal power plant, which is expected to destroy the environment and livelihood of fishermen and farmers in Batang.

Human rights abuses

The project has already created several problems in the proposed area.

According to community groups, the project has been rife with abuses, including human rights violations, illegal acquisition of land and criminalization of peaceful protests.

The financial closing of the project has been delayed three times between 2012 and 2014, due to strong opposition from the community and landowners, who refused to sell their land — even in the face of reported threats, violence, and intimidation.

Sofyan Basir, director of state-owned utility firm PLN, recently visited Batang and asked remaining landowners to sell their land.

“Again, we repeat that we strongly reject the building of the Batang coal power plant in our village. Jokowi should listen to our voices since we were his strong supporters during the presidential election,” said Roidi, a community leader, referring to the president by his popular nickname.

“Almost 100 percent of Batang’s people voted for him, since we trusted that he would listen to us. We believe Jokowi will consider food security as his top priority, and our lands and our seas are some of the most fertile and productive on Java Island.

“So the land should not be used for dirty energy, it should be used for achieving Jokowi’s vision of food sovereignty.”

The proposed site for the Batang coal power plant lies on fertile paddy fields and productive fishing areas.

“The government of Indonesia, PLN, and other companies must stop with their intimidation and repression of the local community,” said Arif Fiyanto, climate and energy campaign team leader at Greenpeace Indonesia.

“It is crystal clear that the community strongly opposes the building of the dirty Batang coal power plant on their lands. The government must listen to people’s voices rather than to corporations,” Arif said.

Members of the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) visited Batang to show support for the community and to express concern about their grievances.

The commission recommended to both the governor of Central Java and the central government that the coal power project be canceled, due to human rights violations and social problems.

The Environment and Forestry Ministry also visited the site earlier this year where after it expressed strong concerns about the situation, recommending the cancelation of the project.

“Indonesia has abundant resources of renewable energy, from geothermal to wind to solar to micro-hydro [power]. The country must quit dirty coal, not only because coal is the single largest contributor to climate change, but also because coal brings more harm than good to the people,” said Arif of Greenpeace Indonesia.