Reuters reports that Indonesia’s Environment Minister, Siti Nurbaya Bakar, would like to make the current moratorium on issuing new licences to use land designated as peatland or primary forest permanent. Reuters states that the moratorium was created in 2011 and covered 66 million hectares by November 2016. President Joko Widodo has extended the moratorium for the third time in May, as Indonesia attempts to reduce the emissions caused by burning down the forest. Indonesia often has forest fires in the dry season due to the draining of peatland forest and land clearance which is often used for products such as palm oil. The smoke from the fires often extends beyond Indonesia’s borders and into Singapore and Malaysia. Reuters reports this is causing poor visibility and creating a health hazard.
“So far its only been extended, and extended again. I want a permanent [moratorium],” Nurbaya Bakar said. “Our primary forest cannot be cleared out.” These concerns are important for the sustainable future of all nations. It is harder for developing nations who often need the investment and support of wealthier countries and then must sacrifice their resources. The leadership of these countries must stay strong in defending the best interests of their citizens, both now and in the future. As mentioned above there are already concerns around the health impacts these activities have on citizens in Indonesia but also in neighbouring countries.
The extension of the current moratorium is a positive action by the Government of Indonesia. It indicates a commitment to cleaning the country and not being exploited by big business. However, a permanent ban would be beneficial for the country as it would remove any doubt that may arise when there is a change in leadership. The temptation to grant permits to big business is complex, as the country would also benefit from the capital injection from such a deal. This is why it is important to think long-term in relation to these issues. As Nurbaya Bakar said, the primary forest cannot be cleared out. If that were to happen Indonesia would become more vulnerable to the climate events they are currently facing and also would lack the ability to sustain themselves in the future. These are the considerations that governments need to be making now, as the environment is in a delicate state and it would not need a large event to tip it past the point of no return. Once a primary forest is cleared it would take decades to reinstate. During that time, the country would face extreme weather conditions and would likely collapse financially as citizens would be unable to produce anything for themselves and would have no certainty.
The protection of forest and peatland in Indonesia will have benefits for the country far into the future. In order to ensure there is a future for a country, leaders must ensure they have consideration of the future in all decisions that are made today. It might be easier to justify accepting large financial assistance for a developing nation, rather than protecting forest and peatland that appears to be everywhere. However, before long the fears of Nurbaya Bakar would be realised and there would be no primary forests in the nation. The permanent ban Nurbaya Bakar calls for would be the next step forward in a plan for the sustainable security of the future.