Indirect drivers – Unclear land classification and tenure
One basic problem of managing forests and land in Indonesia is that significant gaps exist in official knowledge of them, and their extent. Many forest areas, which cover roughly 60 percent of the total land area of the country, have been classified as forest simply because they are not registered as having any other function, and the official national classification of forest makes little distinction between planted and non-planted forests. With forest defined as an area of more than 0.5 ha, which has a tree canopy cover of more than 10 percent and is not primarily being used for non-forest land uses such as agriculture, around 27 million ha (270,000 sq km) of Indonesia’s officially designated Forest Zone (Kawasan Hutan) does not actually support forest. Conversely, nearly 8 million ha of forest are estimated to exist outside the official Forest Zone.
The current state of legislation compounds this lack of clarity as to what is and what is not forest, and where it exists, by introducing uncertainty about where responsibility lies for managing it. The 1999 Forestry Law was an early effort by the new Reformasi eralegislators and empowers the Ministry of Forestry to determine and manage the Forest Zone. However, the law does not provide for Ministry ownership, nor for its control over the issuing of the land tenure rights specified by the Basic Agrarian Law of 1960, but merely divides the Forest Zoneinto State Forests (Kawasan Hutan Negara), where the Ministry has determined that there are no private rights over the land, and Private Forests (Hutan Hak), where private rights exist.
This legal framework, which is intended to encompass spatial planning, land concession licensing, budgeting for environmental management, and environment safeguards, is further complicated by Indonesia’s decentralized system, which allocates various responsibilities to district, provincial and national governments. Since 2001, increased decision-making powers have been devolved to local government to issue permits and licenses, in some cases corruptly, without any regard for sustainable rates of extraction, yet few corresponding increases have been made in local agency budgets and capacity. There is some optimism that Law No. 23 of 2014 about Regional Governance (Law No. 23 of 2014), which removes some authority for issuing permits from district governments, may help improve this situation.
Indonesia’s laws (and a proliferation of presidential decrees, ministerial decisions, and official circulars and regulations) relating to forest, land and natural resources management, and land tenure are therefore unclear. In some cases they overlap, and in others they are ambiguous or contradictory. This situation is exacerbated by low capacity among local government officials to detect and monitor land use infractions (logging in protected or conservation areas, for example, or the failure to remediated land after mining activities) and with law enforcement weak, sanctions are not always enforced, and compliance – even with ambiguous or contradictory laws – is low. Even when the law is clear, significant gaps exist between what is intended to happen, and what actually happens.