Oil Palm, Tripa Swamp of Aceh

Traditionall Illegal Mining on Aceh Forest Land

Firing; A common and cheap method to clear the land

Traditional gold mining in Aceh

A chalenge to feed their family, gaining daily cash, though high risk. They are need to be supervised. Could it be sustain?


Lasantha Bandara

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May 30, 2009

Elephant attacking rural people in Aceh

Elephant's attack is a pretty old widerness problem in Aceh. During last three months, destroying vilager's plants and private company by this giant animal is occuring in northen, western, and southern part of Aceh.

In Bireun district, the hometown of Irwandi Yusuf, the Governor, about 30 hectares and 20 cottage owned by farmers was destroyed. A rattan searcher was disposed to 10-meter deep ravine by an elephant. In Pantonlabu, of Aceh Utara, 4 rural house were ruined by 40 elephants. In Ranto Peurlak, hectares of oil palm, chocholat trees:

In Subussalam, a 40 year-old woman was vanished by an elephant when she was working in a private company farm.In Jeuram, western part of aceh, some elephant ccame into village looking for food without annoying any villager. In Trumon, Southern part, they came into rural setlement, destroying paddy field, estate crops.

Why these environmental issue occuring?

The answer is simple. Their habitat was destroyed. Their natural food is disappearing. Elephant is a nomadic animal, marching in the same track every year. They destroyed some farm because the land used to be their annual roadway. Now the traild has been converted. Who is responsible to the conversion?

Does Aceh government and Ministry of Forestry need to hit away the elephant? Does illegal farming in forest area should be jailed? no! NO!
Me need to re-manage and redesaiqn Aceh forest. Rural community has right to develop their source of income.

REDD Tricky agreement between US-based Conservation NGOs and Polluting Industry

Reduction Emission from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) my be have a perfect spirit to combat global climate change, but I'm pesimist the REDD scheme is aplicable. Many opportunist are out there as reported by an independent site on 29 May 2009 (click tittle to check)

Some US-based conservation NGO -American Electric Power, Conservation International, Duke Energy, Environmental Defense Fund, El Paso Corporation, National Wildlife Federation, Marriott International, Mercy Corps, Natural Resources Defense Council, PG&E Corporation, Sierra Club, Starbucks Coffee Company, The Nature Conservancy, Union of Concerned Scientists, The Walt Disney Company, Wildlife Conservation Society, and the Woods Hole Research Center- have signed agremeent with polluting industry, allowing the industry earn credit if they finance conservation project, at the same time still release CO2.
Some of those NGOs have ever worked, or recently proposing projects, in Aceh; the Conservation International, Mercy Corps.

Based on environmental economics theory on carbon offsetting, it is possible for any interest party, either commercial company or NGO, to buy and sell the credit permit. Thus, a company may keep polluting and pay compensation or an NGOs may buy permit from a company. That’s all a game on global economic activities.

The problems are;
1. there is possibility between transnational company (TNCs) and international NGO to make ‘a black agreement’, cheating.
2. A de jure nationally owned rain forest becomes a global asset. Factually owned by a TNC or international NGO. The ‘new owner’ pays $x while a TNC earns $xxx and being allowed to keep poluting.
3. Around 30-50% of money paid to a nation will be used for managerial fee, most of it runs to overseas. It means a tropical forest country will only get $1/2x. Sadly.

We need a more perfect global agreement on REDD mechanism.

We need a more applicable policy instrument on REDD in Aceh.

Do you have idea?

May 27, 2009

Using recycling paper for printed book: a positive environmental friendly style

I browsed the Internet last night looking for environmental book. I really surprised by this book store. GREEN BY NAME n GREEN BY NATURE: All their recent books are printed on 75% - 100 recycled paper. The book covers are made of 50%–100% recycled materials. For the inks, they used vegetable-based inks. No overseas printing thus reducing carbon footprint.

What we can learn from this online store regarding our future climate?

For those from developed country should support this publisher. Residents from developing country need to follow this environmental friendly style because one day paper price will be more expensive.

May 16, 2009

Newly National Decree on Indonesia’s REDD

Implementating REDD schemes have had some debatable controversial issue due to the absence of national legislation on REDD. Some issues are: Local government partnerships with overseas private company have resulted in low local profit sharing -30%, No legal position for local indigenous community around forest area, no chance for rural resident to participate in, unclear governmental role –central government vs provincial/local government, etc.

Recently, at national legal policy, those issue have been relatively elaborated since the enactment of the Forestry Minister’s (MoF) decree number 30/2009, May 1st, 2009. The MoF decree on the Guideline on REDD Implementation have covered some crucial issues:

1.Enables parties to implement REDD program in both state forest and private land (article 1,4,9). So there is possibility for: private/community to implement the carbon right concept, REDD project in a protected forest, conservation forest and production forest.

2.Provides changes for customary and local communities to participate in (art’l 4). This is a step ahead compared to the last COP in Poznan, international indigenous people alliance is trying to establish legal customary and indigenous people right in global agreement on REDD scheme.

3.REDD proposal for customary forest, village forest and private forest/land must be recommended, and or issued, by local/provincial government (art’l 8-10).

4.Unless for conservation forest, REDD proposal must be recommended by provincial government art’l 5-7)

5.Financial stream through REDD is governed by central government based on national financial acts.

Besides those positive points, I think there are some weaknesses or barriers for locals.

I’ll write down it later. Pretty tired now :)

May 10, 2009

PROTECTED AREA Vs ROAD UPGRADING; A BATTLE OF STAKEHOLDERS; a portrait of environmental injustice

The Indonesian Environmental Forum (Walhi) of Aceh, District NGOs, Government agencies of Aceh, District student society of South Aceh, Bupati (Head) of South Aceh, South Aceh legislative members were sitting together to discuss the upgrading road plan which will ‘fragment’ the Tripa swamp, of South Aceh. The meeting was led by Governor and it was resulted in a physical fighting between student association member + local NGOs activities vs Walhi officer.

It was a fight between a national NGO and local NGO. A fighting of local communities’ interest vs national NGO’s. In broader scale, fighting of international NGO, represented by the Walhi, vs local communities. It is a conflict of environmental protection vs regional development.

•The Bulusema was a village but now it becomes a small town. This town is isolated due to the absence of a sufficient transportation access. Part of the town is surrounded by the The Singkil (sanctuary) swamp, one of Aceh protected areas.
•The Minister of Forestry has passed a Ministerial Letter allowing upgrading old road to the town. The endorsement process of this letter took years due to an environmental issue.
•Walhi has reported the Minister to the National Police for being violating to Conservation acts.
•The Bulusema exists administratively prior to the enactment of the swamp as a conservation area.


Which one should be supported:
The Bulusema and its people or the swamp and its wildlife? International campaign on protecting the degraded sites or regional development?

Both of the issue should be supported. We need to protect the swamp and prosper local people. The existing road was built during the Dutch colonialism era so the swamp defragmentation process is an ancient fact. To achieve those objectives, environmental injustice should be abolished.

Many environmental injustices are happening in Aceh. Many other ‘Bulusema’ exist. Pameu county, of Aceh Tengah district, is an old administrative area since the Dutch era, but the land is being categorized as protected forest because it locates in hilly region. Where is the forest gone….? Go there, you will find a town, a sub-district.

Ketambe, of Aceh Tenggara (southeast) district, a well known site for orangutan rehabilitation and research centre station, there are some old villages. Now the villages are becoming a county. Administratively, the villages change to be a new sub district. Local poor people are not allowed to utilize and converse forest but the orangutan is being supplied with milk. The forest missing, the orangutan population decreasing. Environmental injustice.

International NGOs did a structured campaign encouraging cancelation of upgrading dutch-road in all around Leuser Ecosystem region, known as the Ladia Galaska,. The impact, local people must pay 2-4 times fortheir transportation cost from and to other cities. Local product becomes less competitive while imported product become more expensive. An injustice fact of environmental issue.

Leuser ecosystem is important to reduce the impact rate of global climate change for global sake. Stop the road upgrading. Rarely NGOs talk and campaign on local poverty mitigation. That all environmental injustice.

Maintain the coverage of the Ulumasen Forest! You will earn $7/ha/year but if you let us, NGO and overseas company, manage it for you! Stop degradation! Stop forest conversion! Stop production forest degradation! No palm estate! But they never say that oil palm’s NPV could be worth 30 times higher than that of natural forest.

International NGOs officers in Indonesia are being paid as expatriate, get paid in dollar but expend in rupiah. Local officer being paid in rupiah, costs in rupiah. Environmental NGO’s staff got better living standard than local people in and around forest area. All are environmental injustice.

What about if the Walhi and other NGO’s officer, the expatriate as well, shift their daily life with local poor people, or forest farmer?

May 6, 2009


Those who have ever visited Banda Aceh during the emergency or reconstruction phase of Aceh must have personal memory for Aceh and its environment. Few days after the tsunami disaster, Banda Aceh was look like a ‘ghost city’: no de facto government, bodies were lying with rubies, no social and public services, economic activities stop ticking, citizens tried to escape in hurry.

One month later, humanitarian groups around the world worked in Aceh supplying basic needs and building temporal resettlement. Some NGOs focusing in environmental rehabilitation assisted the community to rebuild their environment, especially mangrove rehabilitation. Around 124 international NGOs, 430 national NGOs, dozens of donor and UN organizations, a variety of Government institutions and military institutions had been recorded after one year of tsunami disaster.

Since this time, ‘mangrove’ has become a popular word among local people replacing the word of bak Bangka, the traditional name of some mangrove trees.

During the Rehabilitation and Reconstruction stage, April 2005 – April 2009, competition among environmental institutions such as NGOs and government’s agencies, on mangrove plantation was obvious. Some non environmental NGOs turned on mangrove projects. an NGO which mainly focus on humanitarian and health, implemented mangrove restoration with premise on environmental health. An NGO which initially focused on elephant issue planted mangrove as well, even governmental agency with its main business on internal affair and rural development, proposed mangrove restoration. All were interested to mangrove. A huge number of money have been spent to rehabilitate natural resources along the coastline and its infrastructure.

What is the result ?

An evaluation survey by UNEP conducted after 18 months of the disaster…., the survival rate of those mangrove plantation was just 40 - 60% but the percentage would have likely decreased since the seedlings was too young at that time (1-2 months) to reach their maturity, have no shade, naturally specific environment constraints -waves, drought, medium, salinity. (UNEP, 2007)

Up to first quarter of 2009, based on my unstructured survey and informal discussion, I estimated the survival rate of Aceh mangrove plantation was just around 10%. Sadly.

It might be true that the local labor were unskilled but how about the national experts or even the international expert? They were really got highly remuneration package. Have lot of academic –might be- and factual experiences around the world.
Mangrove is a common name of species. Each of them requires a specific site –whether clay, silt, sand, or mix of them. A specific species also affected by the tide and frequent wave. In fact, one of some failures of mangrove planting in ex-tsunami sites was a wrong species in the wrong site. Was the ‘expert’ an expert ? Were the ‘Project managers’ a manager? or just a project oriented? Or a Seller and selling the issue of mangrove as an international resources whose in need to be restored and protected.