People‘s settlement area and access to forests has been narrowed by the expansion of palm oil companies, impacting communities which have collectively managed forests for generations who indicate that these lands in effect have been “taken without sufficient compensation or communication with local communities”.
Regarding this, an abundance of national and local rules in Indonesia mandate public involvement or community engagement in the granting of forest concession. In a review of 57 regulations governing land, forest use and local governance of forest, 20 referenced these requirements. However, in practice, these regulations have not been implemented in the interest of the public and local communities, leading to land disputes and conflict. Land disputes and conflicts are only two of the many problems that occur as a consequence of the absence of public participation in the granting of forest concession. Other problems are concerned with food security, people’s welfare, and the environment.
Pesisir Selatan District, Sumatera Barat Province, consists of 15 subdistricts with a hilly landscape and 18 rivers flowing within its boundary. Its area is dominated by forest areas which amount to 83,91% of the total area while the rest of the area is formed of rice fields, plantations, and residential area. This indicates that community areas are located in potential location for sustainable development. IV Jurai Subdistrict in Pesisir Selatan District is among the locations with the largest designated forest areas of 37,83%. These areas are designated as a nagari (village) forest while at the same time; companies have converted parts of this forest into an area for natural resource management.
Solok Selatan District consists of 7 subdistricts with varied topography, ranging from undulating valley to hilly areas as part of Bukit Barisan. As much as 60% of Solok Selatan’s total area lies in the slope gradient of more than 40%. Solok Selatan is also the home of 13 watersheds, making it one among the four districts that are located in the upstream area of Batang Hari river.
Most of Solok Selatan’s areas is constituted of forest area which makes up 72,70% of its total area. The rest of Solok Selatan’s area is formed of rice fields, plantations, and residential areas. Its protected forest is as much as 83.404 hectares, or 23% of the total area of Solok. From 2010 to 2014, Global Forest Watch (GFW) recorded tree cover loss in Solok Selatan’s protected forest. This condition is described by GFW as fluctuating in trend but is likely to increase every year.
The total area of Siak Regency is 811,848 hectares. According to the Global Forest Watch (GFW) data, during the period of 2001-2014, Siak Regency lost 363,398 hectares of 45% of its total forest covers. In the span of 14 years, Siak Regency has lost a total of 25,957 hectares of forest covers each year. The biggest loss of forest covers during that period occurred in 2007, where the loss of forest covers reached 46,142 hectares.
The deforestation rate, which accelerates every year, is triggered by the significant number of concession permits granted to corporates in plantation and forestry sectors, limiting the local people’s access to the forests and natural resources.
The pollution of the water source makes it difficult for the locals to live and farm. The water is brackish, colored (brownish yellow) and reeks of iron, thus ineligible for cooking purposes.
The data from Global Forest Watch (GFW) records that as of 2014, the government has granted land use permits for an area of 866,261 hectares of land, or approximately 65% of the total area of Pelalawan Regency. As much as 50% of the permits are proven to be incompatible with the Regional Regulation No. 23/2001 on Spatial and Regional Planning (RTRW) of Pelalawan Regency.
Palm oil is the main commodity in Pelalawan Regency. However, GFW’s data stated that 68.15% of the land (900,460 hectares) is unsuitable for palm oil cultivation. Meanwhile, the total area suitable for palm oil cultivation is only 24.75% (327,781 hectares), which consists of 50.35% (165,062 hectares) for HPK and 49.65% (162,719 hectares) for HP/HPT. The area of HP/HPT which is almost as large as the proportion of HPK provides a great opportunity for concessions in suitable areas for palm oil cultivation, while resulting in a better impact for forests.
The impacts of granting land use permits for unsuitable areas highly influence the lives of the local people, especially women.