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For banks funding palm oil giants, it pays to stop destructive practices

46 13 7
08.11.2018

ON SEPT 19, Indonesian President Joko Widodo slapped a three-year moratorium on the issuance of new licenses for oil palm plantations.

The moratorium was introduced to “improve governance of sustainable palm plantations, provide legal certainty, maintain environmental sustainability and contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gases,” a senior official told AFP.

President Jokowi, as he is popularly known, has also ordered a review of existing oil palm licenses, to assess compliance with prevailing laws.

The announcement has been welcomed as a move in the right direction by watchdog groups in Indonesia, though with some reserve.

SEE ALSO: Does palm oil have a PR problem?

Arie Rompas, forest campaigner at Greenpeace, says that while it’s a positive step, it’s “marred by inconsistencies and loopholes.”

Most concerning, he says, is that it exempts large tracts of forest controlled by district governments in land zoned as “other-use areas,” or APL, outside of the state-controlled “forest zone.”

According to the “State of the Forest 2018” report published by Indonesia’s forestry ministry, there are 70,000 square kilometers (27,000 square miles) of natural forest (defined as primary and secondary forests) in APL where oil palm can continue to expand.

For communities like Long Bentuk, a village inhabited by indigenous Dayak people in eastern Borneo, who are locked in a struggle to protect their ancestral forests, the moratorium offers little protection.

Despite its once-extensive forests, Long Bentuk’s land is zoned as APL in government maps.

This allowed the district government to hand out concessions for much of the land belonging to Long Bentuk and surrounding villages in 2006.

Despite the Long Bentuk community’s decade-long effort to protect its land, neighboring villages eventually conceded to companies’ pressure to release land for plantations. Due in part to a lack of clear village boundaries, palm oil companies have expanded over much of Long Bentuk’s ancestral forests.

Benediktus Beng Liu, the former chief of Long Bentuk, describes his frustration at the loss of his community’s ancestral forest:

“The forest is where we find wood for our canoes and houses, rattan for weaving, where we go hunting,” he says.

The conversion of forests upstream to oil palm estates has affected water and soil quality and caused an increase in flooding. Without forest habitat, animals consume rice, cocoa and fruit crops in plague-like proportions.........

© Asian Correspondent