Inter-Agency Mission on Forest Fires and Human Settlements in Indonesia, June 2000

Executive Summary

1. Introduction

The 1997-98 forest and land fires in Indonesia were among the most severe in the last two decades. In the aftermath of these fires, a number of initiatives were undertaken to assess the extent of damage, understand the causes, and evolve strategies to establish effective fire management systems to prevent the recurrence of such large-scale fires. According to the ADB-funded report entitled gPlanning for Fire Prevention and Drought Management Projecth and published in April 1999, the initial estimate of areas burnt was 9.7 million hectares. The study estimated that the economic cost of the 1997-98 fires was in the range of US$ 8.8 to 9.7 billion. A comparison of the principal causes of fires from 1982-83 to 1997-98 indicates a shift from the point where major land clearing activities contributed a minor amount to the areas burnt, to a point where much of the burning is attributed to land conversion activities.

Many of the economic and socio-political causes of the 1997-98 fires still prevail. In addition to the immediate causes of the fires, the vulnerability of Indonesian forests is linked to more fundamental issues of forest management and the role of communities and local governments. There is little attention paid to the existence of different types of communities living in and around the forests, including those that are vulnerable to fire. Most of these communities are dependent on agriculture and forest use, mainly in a combination of shifting cultivation for food crops and perennial gardens, along with hunting, fishing and forest product gathering. For indigenous communities, customary law governs the use of forest resources. Because of close interaction between these communities and the forests, the impact of large-scale forest fires on them has been significant. In the past, these impacts have included inadequate food supply as a result of destruction of crops adjoining the fire-affected forests, inadequate availability of wood and building materials, lack of other forest products gathered or used by villagers, and impacts on cash earnings or paid work.

Over the last two decades, the competition for forest resources has increased, and consequently, indigenous forest communities find themselves in conflict with logging concessionaires and industrial plantation owners. The rights and privileges of concessionaires and owners often ignore the forest resource use practices of local communities. The conflict between the indigenous communities who are the traditional land users and these new users has been cited as one of the causes of the 1997-98 fires. The situation becomes even more complex as one takes into account other communities, such as spontaneous settlers and transmigration villagers who have different relationships with forests, and whose pattern of forest use is different from that of indigenous communities.

The current initiative complements on-going efforts at improving forest fire management systems and recognizes the need to look at the issues of forest fires in relation to communities and human settlements. This initiative, led by the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (Habitat) and supported by the Government of Japan, began with an inter-agency mission to Indonesia in June 1999. The mission included experts from UNCHS, UNCRD, UNDP and ADPC. The key objectives of this initiative are to:

  • understand the effects of forest fires on communities, and at the same time, to assess community actions as causal factors in forest fires;
  • understand the discord between local and national interests as they relate to forest fire management in Indonesia; and
  • explore opportunities for community involvement in forest fire prevention, monitoring and suppression vis-a-vis other stakeholders within the changing legislative and political context in Indonesia.

The draft report of this initiative was presented at a National Consultation Seminar on gForest Fires and Human Settlementsh organized by the Ministry of Human Settlements in collaboration with UNCHS (Habitat) in Jakarta, Indonesia on 7-8 October 1999.@y the Ministry of Human Settlements in collaboration with UNCHS (Habitat) in Jakarta, Indonesia on 7-8 October 1999.@Experts from ADPC, UNCRD, UNDP Jakarta, national and international NGOs working on forest fire issues and more than 50 senior level reprentatives from Indonesian government agencies attended the Seminar.@.@The recommendations made at the Seminar have been incorporated in the present repor

2. Forest Fires, Human Settlements and Communities

The forests in Indonesia are managed by the Ministry of Forestry and Estate Crops (MoFEC) which comprises an Inspectorate and Secretariat General, two centres for education and training, an agency for research and development, and four operational Directorate Generals. Within MoFEC, forest fire issues are handled by a sub-directorate under the Directorate of Forest Protection and Nature Conservation.

There are eight basic laws (undang-undang) that govern the management of forest estates, and one basic law on cultivation, that have important implications for the estate sector. The most fundamental problem in the legislation is the contradiction between the Agrarian Law of 1960 (No. 5/1960) and the Basic Forestry Law of 1967 (No. 5/1967). While the Agrarian Law recognizes the customary rights of people, the Basic Forestry Law does not. This contradiction in the legislation poses serious limitations on community involvement in forest fire prevention. Based on the principles laid out in the eight basic laws, a number of government decrees and regulations have been issued at different times and levels. The implementation of these numerous decrees and regulations has been weak.

At the time of preparation of this report, two important new laws had recently been enacted, the Local Government Autonomy Law (No. 22/1999 enacted on 7 May 1999) and the Forestry Law (No. 41/1999 enacted on 30 September 1999). However, until the completion of this report, the actual implementation of these laws was still being discussed. Their implementation in due course will have important implications for this reportfs recommendations.

The regulations defining the role of communities in the management of forests are, in general, extremely unfavourable to forest communities, severely restricting their use of timber and limiting their access to other forest products. They also do not differentiate between indigenous communities (long-established forest dwellers), transmigrants and spontaneous settlers. All forest communities are labelled as shifting cultivators (peladang berpindah) who destroy the forests and disturb naturefs balance. These regulations are the main target of the on-going reform process.

The utilization rights of natural forest concessionaires (HPH), as well as timber plantation concessionaires (HPHTI), have been established by a series of decrees based on the legal principles provided by the Basic Forestry Law. The management of land clearance by industrial plantations is guided by these rights of utilization. One of the most recent regulations, applicable to new concessions and to HPH and HPHTI concessionaires who wish to convert a portion of their holdings to plantation, is a ministerial decree (Keputusan Menteri No. 782/Kpts-II/1998) that limits the sizes of different kinds of concessions. This regulation represents a policy initiative that aims at providing greater opportunities to medium-sized enterprises. However, in its implementation, it may lead to excessive exploitation in pre-existing large concessions.

Over the past few decades, a range of new stakeholders in Indonesiafs forests have been introduced. Whereas in the past, the forests were inhabited only by local ethnic groups (for example, Dayak and Kutai in East Kalimantan), new stakeholders have emerged: logging companies, various kinds of cash crop plantations (oil palm, coconut, cacao, rubber), and conservation agencies, each supported by government officials of various stripes. At the same time, some forest areas have undergone significant demographic changes over the past two decades due to the influx of spontaneous settlers and transmigrants. The informal resource use agreements that evolved over centuries among the indigenous people are no longer applicable. This has led to conflicts between and among some of the key stakeholders: indigenous forest communities, spontaneous settlers, official transmigrants and private companies.

3. Forest Fire Management in Indonesia

Until recently, the National Disaster Management Coordination Board (BAKORNAS PB), which has a representation of various departments and ministries, did not have any representation from either MoFEC or BAPEDAL. Both agencies are now represented on the Board of BAKORNAS PB wherein MoFEC deals with fire suppression issues and BAPEDAL represents concerns related to public education, awareness generation and policy reform. Although this indicates some recent streamlining of fire prevention and suppression functions at the national level, it is not likely to translate automatically into better fire prevention and suppression at the local level. There are several limitations in the regulatory framework governing fire management in Indonesia: lack of flexibility, unclear fire management structure, imbalance in coordination arrangements, and lack of uniform fire management structures at provincial level.

The numerous decrees that regulate fire prevention seem to assume that it can be managed and directed by a detailed set of rules and procedures. These gfixedh procedures take little account of the confusion that occurs in most serious fires and the need for rapid responses at the local level with a great deal of improvization.

The structure that emerges from the numerous regulations is enormously complex. All three main agencies (BAKORNAS PB, MoFEC, BAPEDAL) have a command line drawn through their structures to the field level, where practical suppression activity is carried out. On the way down, there are numerous cross-links at sectoral, provincial, regional and local levels of the agencies involved and key people such as governors and SATLAK heads, until ultimately there is a competition between agencies for the services of fire-fighters. The existence of two fire management agencies within the Ministry of Forestry (National Center for Forest Fire Management) and within BAPEDAL (National Center for Forest Fire Management), and their mutual mandates to form units down to the local level, offer considerable potential for confusion and rivalry in actual on-going fire management.

Fire prevention issues seem to have been given a higher importance in the Ministry of Environment by the establishment of a Directorate for Forest Fires (SK President No. 196/1998). In the Ministry of Forestry, however, forest fires are still managed at sub-directorate level under the Directorate of Forest Protection and Nature Conservation. This creates an imbalance in coordinating agencies.

Given the nature of the national ministerial decrees that govern forest fire prevention in Indonesia, especially those mandating different agencies, units or centres, the various provinces have responded at different times and in different ways to create their own local organizations. There is no uniformity of structures for fire-fighting at the provincial level.

4. Forest Fire Management Projects in Indonesia

Since 1982-83 a number of extreme forest fire events in Indonesia have caught international attention. In response, a range of national, regional and international agencies have initiated a number of projects and programmes focusing on various aspects of forest fire management. Prior to 1994, such projects addressed issues of fire prevention and control. After the 1994 fire, which created transboundary pollution, there was greater interest in understanding the causes and impacts of the fires. In the aftermath of the unprecedented fires of 1997-98, a number of new projects were started. These projects, along with those started before the 1997-98 fires, exhibit significant overlap among objectives, activities, inputs and outputs. Their effectiveness can be significantly increased by a good coordinating mechanism that can enhance cooperation, sharing of information and expertise, and dissemination of project results.

In general, the new generation fire projects seem to place more emphasis on space-borne remote sensing technology for monitoring and prediction, compared to practical pre-suppression and suppression activities. These projects need to be complemented with community-based forest fire prevention and mitigation programmes that emphasize local-level capacity building, public education and awareness generation. A number of projects that were started before 1997 have recognized this and have now incorporated community-based approaches into their programmes. Over the past few years a number of national NGOs working at community level have also been providing support to address the problem of forest fires and haze.

5. Underlying Causes of Forest and Land Fires

The causes of the 1997-98 forest fires in Indonesia can be broadly divided into three distinct but inter-related categories: weaknesses in policy and regulatory framework, local conflicts, and increased vulnerability of a continually degrading forest environment.

Weaknesses in the policy and regulatory framework include:

  • the fundamental contradiction between the Agrarian Law and the Basic Forestry Law, wherein the latter does not recognize the customary rights of communities living in and around the forests;
  • the inappropriate forest utilization rights of concessionaires;
  • the inadequate forest utilization rights of communities living in and around forest areas;
  • lack of emphasis on building management capacities at the local level;
  • lack of an integrated forest management system; and
  • inadequate inter-ministerial dialogue.

Many studies undertaken at the local level have indicated that conflict between local communities and the private sector was one of the causes of the 1997-98 fires. Forest communities often feel that their customary rights of forest utilization are taken over and they retaliate by burning the trees planted by the plantation companies. The limited utilization rights of forest communities have also made them indifferent and has discouraged their participation in fire suppression. The conflicts over forest property rights are between a number of groups: local communities, local communities and government, local communities and migrants, local residents and private companies, and private companies. Lack of clear land use and ownership records have made it difficult to resolve such conflicts.

There is a consensus among experts that the past fires have increased the vulnerability of the forests in Indonesia to fires. In the absence of an integrated rehabilitation programme after previous fires, large tracts of forest land now have been covered with highly combustible biomass. Large-scale logging and disturbance to the primary forests have also contributed significantly to increased vulnerability. In such a situation, local communitiesf traditional mechanisms for dealing with fire that worked well in humid tropical rain forests are inadequate.

6. Strategic Action Areas for the Prevention of Forest and Land Fires

The following strategic action areas represent some of the possible areas of intervention for long-term forest and land fire prevention. In line with the focus of this study, these strategies explore the role of communities in forest fire prevention.

Strategic Action Areas for Local Communities
  • Participatory Community Mapping and Documentation of Traditional Resource Management Practices

Participatory community mapping is a tool that can help communities document and assert their rights and privileges, and gain full benefit from the on-going reform process, which will decentralize governance and devolve decision-making to the local level. Community mapping, complemented with documentation of traditional local resource management systems, can be used as a tool to resolve land boundary and resource management conflicts between and among different communities as well as outsiders.

  • Documenting Traditional Ways of Controlled Burning

Documentation of traditional (controlled and safe) ways of burning and associated resource management practices will be useful in reinforcing forest fire prevention initiatives at the local level. This can be a valuable input to public education and awareness-generation programmes on forest fire prevention by targeting local communities, local government and workers of private companies.

  • Establishing Dialogue between Private Companies, Local Governments and Local Forestry Departments

Local communities in Indonesia have a tradition of periodically coming together to discuss (rembuk) issues of common concern. This tradition can be a starting point to establish mechanisms for continuous dialogue (and conflict resolution) between various stakeholders at the local level.

  • Public Education and Awareness-Generation Programmes

The above-mentioned three strategies need to be supported by extensive public education and awareness-generation programmes on forest fire prevention issues within the broader context of sustainable forest resource management at the local level. The public education needs of different community groups (such as transmigrants, spontaneous settlers and indigenous people) and their socio-cultural and economic backgrounds should be taken into account when designing public awareness programmes.

  • Training and Equipment for Local Fire Suppression

Training in local fire suppression in accordance with formally established standards, provision of basic and simple fire-fighting equipment at local community level, and the setting up of systems for local fire intelligence and its rapid transmission will go a long way in strengthening fire management efforts.

  • Legal Advice to Communities through NGOs, Local Governments and Professional Groups

Within the context of the current decentralization process in Indonesia, mechanisms to provide legal advice to local communities regarding their forest resources rights and privileges can be extremely helpful. Local NGOs, local governments and professional groups could be involved in steering such a process.

Strategic Action Areas for Private Companies

  • Establishing Dialogue with Local Communities

Establishing a regular dialogue with local communities will help private companies in understanding communitiesf concerns regarding the management of forests. This will help reduce conflicts between the private companies and local communities and increase responsibilities of joint (and complementary) resource management of forests.

  • Capacity-Building for Fire Prevention and Suppression at the Plantation Level

Private companies will benefit greatly from assistance in capacity-building of their mandatory gpatrol and protection unith (Satpam PH) for fire prevention and suppression.

  • Advice on Community Rights in Potential Concession Areas

The private concessionaires can be advised, well in advance, of the rights of the communities in their potential concession areas. This will help minimize the cases where the concessionaires take hold of a new concession without the knowledge of communities living in and around the area.

  • Public Education and Awareness-Generation Programmes

The management practices of private companies can be improved by extensive public education and awareness-generation programmes tailored to their needs. Such programmes should establish the longer-term economic and environmental benefits of sustainable practices.

Strategic Action Areas for Local NGOs

  • Training of Trainers in Participatory Community Mapping

The capacity of local NGOs can be enhanced through the training of trainers in techniques of participatory community mapping and documentation of community-based resource management systems. Local NGOs may also be assisted in building their capacity to formalize and redraft these maps into a standard format and assist communities in seeking formal recognition from the local government. Local NGOs should also be able to assist local communities appropriately in negotiating a co-management scheme with local governments and private companies.

  • Non-formal Education on Legal Aspects of Forest Management and Local Governance Laws

NGO workers may be educated on the existing and emerging legal aspects of forest management and local governance laws and their implications. Such education will help them play an effective facilitating role in reducing conflicts between local communities and private companies, and exploring possibilities for joint forest resource management.

  • Training in Conflict Resolution

Training in modern conflict resolution techniques will greatly enhance the capacities of local NGOs to facilitate dialogue among the various stakeholders in forest resource management.

  • Networking with other NGOs

Several NGOs across Indonesia have been working on techniques of participatory community mapping and documentation of community-based resource management systems and their application in conflict resolution. A lot can be learned from the experience of these on-going initiatives. Local NGOs can benefit greatly from networking with other NGOs and capitalizing upon their experiences.

  • Public Education and Awareness-Generation Programmes

Local NGOs should not only be a vehicle for public education and awareness-generation programmes but also a target of some of these programmes to build their capacity in promoting sustainable forest resource management practices.

Strategic Action Areas for Local Government

  • Capacity-building for Local Level Planning

The current reform process is likely to devolve authority to the local level. In such a context, capacity-building of local governments in local level planning will be extremely important. This planning will include provincial level integrated land use planning. Studies have emphasized the need to develop gprovincial spatial planningh (Rencana Tata Ruang Wilayah Propinsi, RTRWP). Within the framework of RTRWP, there is a need to develop gprovincial fire prevention and suppression plansh. The capacity for such planning needs to be developed at the provincial level so that these plans reflect the distinctive needs and characteristics of the province.

  • Training on Emerging Legislative and Regulatory Framework

The national level reform process needs to be complemented with provincial level training on the emerging legislative and regulatory framework, and its implications for the functioning of local government.

  • Public Education and Awareness-Generation Programmes

Local governments should participate in public education and awareness-generation programmes dealing with forest fire prevention issues and sustainable forest resource management practices.

Strategic Action Areas for Central Government

A detailed review of the process by which forest concessions are issued at the central government level will be helpful. It should examine whether the location of communities is taken into account while issuing forest concessions and whether private concessionaires are informed about the rights and privileges of communities living in and around their concession areas.