Activists Found Illegal Activities in Protected Peats of Central Kalimantan

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Photo: WALHI

Jakarta (Greeners) – Amid the 2019 Presidential Election campaigns, Indonesia’s green watchdog had reported an illegal land opening in protected peatlands in Pangkalan Bun of Kotawaringin Lama district, Central Kalimantan, said an activist in Jakarta on Wednesday (23/01/2019).

The Indonesian Forum for the Environment, or locally known as WALHI, reported illegal land opening of 34 hectares allegedly done by corporations to Ministry of Environment and Forestry, Peatlands Restoration Agency, Central Kalimantan Governor and Police, on 23 October 2018.

“Unfortunately, our report only being responded by Peatlands Restoration Agency. The ministry of environment and forestry, as the central government with authority, ignore completely our report of illegal activity. This report was made because the location is in peat areas included in Peat Hydrology Ecosystem of Lamandau river-Arut river (KHG.62.01.02) with the function as protected areas as its depth more than three meters,” said Dimas Novian Hartono, director of Central Kalimantan WALHI.

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Furthermore, Hartono said that after reporting, the team from the agency went to check the location for verification on 25 November 2018. The result was the team had found land opening and canal blocking on the left side of Pangkalan Bun – Kotawaringin Lama KM 5, Mendawai Seberang subdistrict, Arut Selatan subdistrict, West Kotawaringin district, for more less 34 hectares and three main canals of two kilometers long and 109 secondary canals with average 100 meters long.

“Amid the 2019 presidential election, this is clearly signaling that our government just got ‘robbed’ and [the government] do not make this as the headline of [illegal] land opening [case],” he said.

Furthermore, the team also discovered one orangutan nest in the location. Based on Central Kalimantan Natural Conservation Agency, the location is bornean orangutan habitat. The conservation agency and partners have been rescuing and transferring at least eleven orangutans between 2015-17 in the location.

READ ALSO: Peatlands Management To Reach Paris Commitment, Senior Adviser Says 

Safrudin of Kalimantan’s Save Our Borneo, said that video recorded by WALHI on 4 December 2018 captured two orangutans, — a mother and her child –, with skinny features, allegedly experiencing stress due to damaged habitat and ran out of food.

“From this result, we will probably be collaborating with other NGOs to save those orangutans if within these months law enforcement from the ministry do nothing to stop the land opening,” said Safrudin. “However, what we’re afraid of is that if we rescue those orangutans then we allow these irresponsible people to keep on destroying the areas. So, [I] hope the law enforcement can process the report and stop the activities.”

Based on the field verification, the illegal activities are subject to forest crimes without permits violating the 2013 Law on Forest Destruction Prevention and Eradication and the 2009 Law on Environmental Protection and Management.

Reports by Dewi Purningsih