Illegal logging and peatland burning in Indonesia's Sebangau National Park

By agency reporter
September 8, 2018

The latest report from the Independent Forest Monitoring Network in Indonesia (Jaringan Pemantau Independen Kehutanan, or JPIK) – The Loss of Our Forest and Peatland – reveals systematic and extensive encroachment, as well as illegal logging, within Sebangau National Park that reaches far into the park’s rehabilitation zone (zona rehabilitasi) and wilderness zone (zona rimba).

JPIK’s repeated monitoring from the end of 2016 to early 2018 found that forest and peatland have been converted and burnt for oil palm planting in Tangkiling and Marang, Bukit Batu sub-district in Palangkaraya municipality, one of the management units of Sebangau National Park. JPIK also found that illegal logging was happening inside the park, the timber allegedly used to supply local timber industries in Central Kalimantan.

Satellite image analysis by JPIK shows that 19,000 hectares in Sebangau National Park were burnt in 2015. More than half of the hotspots in all national parks in Indonesia in the same year were in Sebangau National Park. The cause is believed to be land clearing for oil palm plantations and farmland.

JPIK Campaigner Dhio Teguh Ferdyan said: “Instead of being defended, the national park management unit closest to the centre of provincial government in Palangkaraya – which, in theory, should be able to protect its integrityis in reality allowing encroachment, leading to the destruction of tropical peat swamp forest”.

JPIK’s monitoring confirms that forest and peatland have been cleared and burnt in Tangkiling and Marang, along and inside the park for oil palm plantations. JPIK confirmed that 11 GPS coordinates in these areas were inside the park, with the locations in the rehabilitation zone and the wilderness zone.

Saluang Welum, a farmers’ group in Marang, also contributed to the conversion of more than 1,000 ha of land, some of which is located within the park. Information from local sources names several high-ranking Palangkaraya municipal government officials as having lands around Palangkaraya Management Unit of Sebangau National Park. The officials’ names are found on the plan of the Saluang Welum famers’ group plantation area, which has been divided into 26 plots based on respective owners. An access road which cuts through the national park has been built by the Palangkaraya Municipal Public Works and Spatial Planning Agency to facilitate this farmers’ group.

In Tangkiling, the loss of forest has forced orangutans to move and build nests in oil palm plantations. It is ironic because the Government declared Sebangau National Park a pilot site for peat restoration, including it in Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) demonstration activities.

“The illegal logging and continuing conversion of Sebangau National Park into oil palm plantations is alarming. The park is home to one of the largest populations of the critically endangered Bornean orangutan and its peatlands are hugely important carbon stocks. These activities need to be urgently halted,” said Siobhan Pearce, EIA Forests Campaigner.

JPIK has reported the acts of encroachment and illegal logging in Sebangau National Park to the Directorate General of Law Enforcement, Ministry of Environment and Forestry. But until now there have been no concrete efforts nor law enforcement against these illegal activities. This clearly shows that the central and regional governments have failed to enforce the law and protect the forest and peatland ecosystem.

* The Loss of Our Forest and Peatland report is available here

* Environmental Investigation Agency https://eia-international.org/

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