TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - There will be positive and negative consequences to the merger of the environmental and forestry ministries. According to former Deputy Minister of Environment, Masnellyarti Hilman, the environment ministry will be upgraded from a C class to a B class ministry. The A class ministries are the ministries of foreign affairs, home affairs, education and health.
The negative aspect of the merger, however, will surface when it comes to issuing licenses for commercial activities in forests. "This is important to determine the increase in state revenues or taxes," said Masnellyarti. She said that the merger will be the biggest challenge of newly-installed Environment Minister Siti Nurbaya, whom she hopes will continue to apply the environmental impact study (AMDAL) when issuing forestry licenses.
Masnellyarti, who has worked for the environment ministry for the past 30 years, also suggested that the government cease clearing and opening more forest land for commercial activities. Forests in Indonesia, she said, were rapidly shrinking and being destroyed by expanding palm oil plantations and industrial forest products industry. She stressed that all environment ministry programs aimed at conserving forests had often been blocked by officials of the forestry ministry. She also lamented the poor management of spatial issues both at the national as well as local levels.
At her ministry’s hand-over of duties ceremony, Environment Minister Siti Nurbaya promised to facilitate the licensing process so it would be easier, cheaper, faster and more transparent. "This will ensure that natural resources can fully be a source of prosperity," she said, adding however, that licensing should not be an element of transaction but of control. "The appropriate governmental authority involved in supervision and oversight must really be [present] on the ground," said Siti Nurbaya, who earned a doctorate from the Bogor Institute of Agriculture (IPB) in 1998.
Siti Nurbaya explained that since the 1990s, the environment was no longer just about pollution or environmental destruction but also a political issue linked to economic growth. She fully realizes in managing this sector, her biggest challenge will be to fight the questionable intervention of officials, politicians as well as corporate lobbies.