TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - The Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) protested against President Jokowi’s plan to create new rice fields in wetlands and peatlands in Kalimantan Province. The forum’s Food, Water, and Essential Ecosystem Campaign Manager, Wahyu Perdana, demanded the president to not repeat past mistakes.
“Stop using the [COVID-19] pandemic as an excuse to exploit [environment],” said Wahyu in his statement in Jakarta, Wednesday, April 29.
Earlier, Coordinating Minister for Economy Airlangga Hartarto hinted the president’s order for state and regional enterprises and the Agriculture Ministry to convert 900,000 hectares of peatlands into new rice fields in Central Kalimantan in a bid to prevent threats of a food crisis.
According to Wahyu, Walhi is against the government’s plan because of three reasons. First, a similar project had been carried out during the New Order era dubbed “lahan gambut sejuta hektar” or One Million Hectare Peatland Development Project from 1995 until 2001. It turned out, the project worth Rp1.6 trillion had no significant impact on food availability.
Second, due to ignorance and lack of understanding of the swamp ecosystem, such a project will only lead to rising ecological disasters, a source of land and forest fires.
Third, Walhi opined that food affairs should be handed over to farmers by giving them land rights. “How are social forestry initiatives and TORA (land objects for agrarian reform) programs that are part of the president Jokowi’s flagships going?” said Wahyu.
He also raised a question about the result of the Agriculture Ministry’s program on rice fields with the Indonesian Military (TNI). “At the same time, farmers are dealing with land rights and often face agrarian conflicts,” Wahyu added.