Peat agency’s letter contradicts legal facts signed by President

(foresthints.news) - In July this year (Jul 24), a letter was sent to the Indonesian Ministry of the Environment and Forestry by the Peat Restoration Agency (BRG) stating that the results of LiDAR mapping, including a land cover map on a scale of 1:2,500, had been handed over by the mapping's implementer to the peat agency (Jul 3).  

The purpose of the letter, which was signed by Budi S. Wardhana, the peat agency's Deputy Head for Planning and Cooperation, and addressed to the Ministry's Director General of Forestry Planology and Environmental Governance, with a copy sent to Peat Agency Chief Nazir Foead, was to submit the data derived from the LiDAR mapping to the ministry.

After the letter was sent, the peat agency chief duly submitted the data to the ministry at a ceremony held in August at the ministry building. The implementation of this LiDAR mapping was coordinated by the World Resources Institute (WRI) with funding support from the Norwegian government.

However, the peat agency and WRI, in their respective roles as advisor and coordinator of the LiDAR mapping, failed to anticipate the misclassification of land cover in 2015's burned peat areas by the LiDAR mapping team. This led to serious ground-based and legal errors.

In fact, the land cover classification in the WRI-coordinated LiDAR mapping directly contradicts the explanatory section of the newly-revised government regulation on peat protection and management, which was signed by President Joko Widodo in early December last year.

In the explanatory section of the newly-revised government regulation, it is written that "the facts show that the largest fires in peatlands occurred mainly in South Sumatra and Central Kalimantan provinces, as well as in parts of Riau, Jambi and South Kalimantan provinces, with indications that these fires were extremely difficult to extinguish."

However, these legal facts differ completely with the land cover classification from the WRI-coordinated LiDAR mapping. The LiDAR mapping instead classified the majority of 2015's burned peat areas as high, medium and low density secondary peat swamp forests, thereby making it seem as if there were no peat fires in 2015, especially in South Sumatra and Central Kalimantan.

The photographs below demonstrate the misleading nature of the WRI-coordinated LiDAR mapping, in that it classified 2015’s burned peat areas in Central Kalimantan’s Pulang Pisau regency as secondary peat swamp forests in contradiction to the legal facts set forth in the newly-revised government regulation signed by President Joko Widodo. 

Satisfactory result?

The peat agency’s fact sheet declares that the LiDAR mapping team shall only be paid if it achieves a satisfactory result and meets certain technical specifications.

The aforementioned letter from the peat agency’s deputy head, along with the submission of the WRI-coordinated LiDAR mapping results by the peat agency chief to the ministry at an official event, indicated that the peat agency and WRI had determined the LiDAR mapping to have delivered a “satisfactory result”. 

It seems very relevant to ask how it was possible for the WRI-coordinated LiDAR mapping to have been classified as a satisfactory result when its land cover analysis has been proven to clash with the legal facts in the newly-revised government regulation.

Based on numerous legal and ground-based verifications conducted by foresthints.news, it is highly recommended that the peat agency and WRI retract their land cover classification of 2015’s burned peat areas considering that it is wholly inconsistent with all the facts. 

As previously reported by foresthints.news (Nov 24), Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya has decided, at this stage, not to use the data from the WRI-coordinated LiDAR mapping submitted by the peat agency to the ministry.

Furthermore, the peat agency chief requested coordinates of photos that appeared in a series of news reports from foresthints.news concerning the land cover misclassification of 2015’s burned peat areas based on the WRI-coordinated LiDAR mapping in order to perform field checks.

However, by the time this news report was posted, foresthints.news still had yet to receive any information whatsoever about these field checks.