Community Leaders Blocking New Aceh Spatial Plan Revisions through Legal and Ministerial Channels
Global Conservation Supports HaKA and Wildlife Asia to enable Major Lobbying Campaign and Legal Support
Global Conservation is supporting legal efforts, public relations and lobbying of the Indonesian government to block a new Spatial Plan proposed by the Governor of Aceh province. Currently, this spatial revision is in review by the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of Indonesia and could lead to the rapid destruction of critical wildlife habitats and primary forests.
Local citizens and NGOs are taking their fight to Jakarta to fight destruction of one of Southeast Asia's last great swaths of intact rainforest.
HaKA is an Acehnese NGO leading this effort to stop destructive revision over existing national protected areas which could destroy 100,000s of acres of pristine lowland forests and primary habitats for the last of Sumatra’s and Asia’s megafauna and other wildlife. The Aceh governor’s short-sighted plan provides little conservation of critical primary forests and endangered wildlife habitats. Expected loss to palm oil and deforestation could reach 40-60% of the Leuser Ecosystem within 10 Years.
According to MongaBay -
“The plaintiffs call the plan illegal, and they want Jakarta to follow up on its promise to revoke it. With the filing of a class-action lawsuit today in Jakarta, a bitter fight over the future of one of Sumatra’s last intact rainforests will move to the courts.
Registered by nine Indonesian citizens from the country’s westernmost province of Aceh, the suit — lodged three months after a warning letter sent to the home affairs ministry went unanswered — challenges the legality of a set of zoning laws passed by the Aceh parliament at the end of 2013.
Those land-use laws, known collectively as a spatial plan, were ordered to be revised by the home ministry back in February of 2014. More than two years later, the unrevised spatial plan remains in force.
“This case is clear-cut,” Nurul Ikhsan, attorney for the plaintiffs, said in a statement. “All we ask is for the minister of home affairs to uphold its own legal authority and cancel the Aceh spatial plan, and for the Aceh government and parliament to revise it.”
The plan “effectively legalizes numerous new roads, many of which have already been cut and constructed illegally through vast areas of the forests, fragmenting the sensitive ecosystem and opening up new pathways for destruction,” said Farwiza Farhan, chairperson of the NGO Forest, Nature and Environment of Aceh (HAkA), and a plaintiff in the case.
Leuser contains some of the best remaining habitat for the Sumatran varieties of elephant (Elephas maximus sumatrensis), orangutan (Pongo abelii), rhinoceros (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis) and tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae), all critically endangered species.
The “countless ecosystem services” provided by Leuser, he said, “serve as an irreplaceable life-support system for the people of Aceh and North Sumatra, providing clean water supplies … in addition to preventing environmental catastrophes such as flash floods and landslides.”
Despite a wariness to be seen as interfering in Aceh, diplomats from Norway and the EU have also urged the province to revise the plan. Last year with the Aceh government’s blessing, the EU funded an independent study of the plan, which it hoped the province would then use as a basis for revision. But Aceh has yet to act on the results of the study, completed earlier this year.
The ongoing haze crisis should give Jakarta extra impetus to cancel the plan, Farwiza said. “We don’t want Leuser to become like Riau and Jambi, with all these fires,” she said.
Sumatra's priceless Leuser Ecosystem is being under threat of being developed with palm oil and forest concessions if the government of Aceh province succeeds to get federal approval from Jakarta – Ministry of Forestry and Ministry of Interior.
Last month, nine Aceh citizens filed a class action lawsuit against the plan.
“It is true that the Aceh [government] has this aura because it is ‘special,’ or untouchable, and, therefore, can do whatever it wants,” she said. “But in reality, the central government has been pretty firm about things like the [separatist] flag and this year’s budget. For some reason, they haven’t been that way about the spatial plan. It could be because [the central government] has its own interests at stake.”
Dozens of oil palm companies have already obtained permits to operate in Leuser, but the scale of industry there pales to that of, say, Tesso Nilo National Park in Sumatra’s Riau province, which has been mostly destroyed by illegal plantations.
In the near future, the panel of judges will examine the class action suit and attempt to initiate a process of mediation. But Abu Kari, the plaintiff, is playing a long game, one for which he said the stakes could not be higher.
“People these days [might think] they don’t need forests, don’t need water,” he said in a recently released documentary. “But those who [really] need them haven’t been born yet.”
Global Conservation is funding HaKA and Rainforest Action Network (RAN) to bring critical international and national attention to the destruction of Leuser Ecosystem. HaKA is now fully engaged to use public relations campaigns to bring millions of Indonesians and international citizens to call on the Ministry of Interior to uphold land use and park protection in the Leuser Ecosystem.
Rainforest Action Network: The Last Place on Earth