Clear Land Borders, Or No Concessions
Fidelis E. Satriastanti & Alina Musta’idah
Applicants for land concessions in Indonesia will soon be forced to clarify the boundaries of their land and show that there is no overlapping claims, the Forestry Ministry announced on Tuesday amid a recent eruption of violence linked to land disputes.
Hadi Daryanto, the secretary general of the Forestry Ministry, said the government would revise a ministerial decree on the process to establish or extend working areas for forestry product concessions.
“We will put the requirement for determination of the boundaries at the beginning of the process in the application for an IUPHHK,” Hadi said, referring to the permit for forest usage.
He explained that as it stoodnow, the ministerial decree stated that determining the boundaries and making sure there were no other claims to any part of the area must be completed after the concession has been granted.
“The Forestry Ministry is determined to assist in accelerating the process of comprehensively determining the boundaries of forests by appointing the BPKH as technical assistant,” Hadi said.
BPKH — the Agency for Forestry Area Consolidation — is a unit of the Forestry Ministry tasked with evaluating changes in status and function of forests and presenting data and information on forestry resources.
Any area with overlapping claim or claims may be taken out of the concession to be awarded, designated as an enclave, recognized as a customary forest or designated as a forest with special purposes.
Residents may also be granted access to a specific area and jointly manage the area with the concession-seeker.
But Nana Suparna, who heads the forestry estate department of the Association of Forestry Company of Indonesia (APHI), said the planned revision was based on a false assumption.
“We are actually like the renter of a room inside a house. If the house has a land conflict with other people, then it is the house owner who has to settle the problem,” Nana said.
He said that land conflict was discouraging people from investing in the forestry sector and could affect the country’s investment climate.
“It is not only investors who stand to lose, but also the people around the forestry estate concession area, as they also lose access to their livelihood,” Nana said.
But NGO Greenomics Indonesia agreed with the government that it was the concession-seeker’s responsibility to carefully delineate the boundaries of the forest plot they wanted to develop.
It also fell on them to make sure that those plots were free of other claimants, it said.
The institute’s executive director, Elfian Effendi, welcomed the requirement being put before the issuance of the concessions.
In the past, Elfian said, those concession-holders have often procrastinated or even failed to firmly delineate their border, opening avenues for conflict with the local populations.
He said one weakness of the current system was that the delineation was only on paper, using coordinates.
“There should be marking posts in the field, but unfortunately this is not done, so there are often overlaps — for example, between plantation, mines, timber estates or other forest concessionaires,” Elfian said.
“If the government dares, then it should enforce the law on these concession holders,” he said. “As for those who do not do their boundary definition, just freeze their permit.”
BPHK said that up to this point, only 5 percent of Indonesian forests have clear boundary demarcations.
Additional reporting from Investor Daily