Indonesia: Ministry’s secrecy blamed for deforestation

The Jakarta Post 12 Nov 15;

Green group Forest Watch Indonesia (FWI) has criticized the Environment and Forestry Ministry for being one of the most secretive ministries in the government and has warned that that attitude could contribute to worsening deforestation.

From 2014 to the middle of 2015, the ministry had received 915 information requests from the public, but responded only to 127 of them, FWI researcher Linda Rosalina said on Wednesday.

The requested information mostly concerned permit documents, data on the ministry’s budget, environmental policies and Environmental Impact Analyses (Amdal) — information that has been guaranteed as freely accessible for the public under Law No. 14/2008 on public information.

According to FWI, the ministry often declined to release information to the public, arguing that the information could threaten state security, public order or people’s livelihoods, violate intellectual property rights, expose businesses to unhealthy competition, endanger the country’s natural resources or put relations with other countries at risk.

“The ministry already has all the means to be transparent about public information, because the country has the law, the central information commission [KIP] and documentation and information management officers [PPID],” Linda said. “But the implementation is disappointing so far.”

Linda said if the ministry continued to withhold crucial information, the country could suffer from accelerated deforestation.

FWI data shows that Indonesia lost 4.5 million hectares to deforestation from 2009 to 2013.

“This shows that Indonesia still can’t control deforestation, which is mainly caused by the lack of a transparent management system,” FWI executive director Christian Purba said.

He added that inconsistent forest-related data at several institutions also pointed to the lack of transparency.

Some of the inconsistencies include mismatches in the data from the Environment and Forestry Ministry and other agencies.

Data from the ministry shows that 143.7 million cubic meters of commercial timber came from natural forests between 2003 and 2004.

Meanwhile, data from the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) for the same period shows that timber production amounted to 772.8 million cubic meters.

Christian said the difference could mean losses of up to Rp 779.3 trillion (US$57.34 billion) in state revenue.

KIP commissioner Yhannu Setiawan said the government needed to amend the public information law.

“It’s a good time to revise it with the participation of civil society,” Yhannu said.

He said the central government also needed to promote transparency, especially at local governments.

“It is going to be a very hard and slow process, but we have to change, and revising the law could be a step in the right direction,” he said. (foy)

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