In a win for Indonesian forests, government officials recently ruled that 200,000 hectares — nearly half a million acres — of oil palm plantations are expected to be returned to the state and converted back into forests, as Reuters reported, and that figure may increase.
Indonesia is the world’s largest palm oil producer and exporter, and the industry changed Southeast Asia when it boomed. The industry has also been accused of corruption, with several big players accused or found guilty of accepting bribes, like the former head of an Indonesian land agency.
However, its prominent role in the country isn’t stopping the Indonesian government from trying to restore some of the damage the industry brought with it as well.
Good News Network reported that a task force has been created by internal security and environmental ministries to look at all of the country’s oil palm plantations, find those that are on protected land, and force them to leave.
Almost half of the country’s palm plantations have been found in forests. However, a 2020 law stated that plantations inside forest areas can be legally recognized if they meet specific requirements and pay fines. The deadline for this passed earlier this month, and now Indonesia’s chief security minister, Mahfud MD, says he will take legal action against those who continue to use land illegally.
Forestry ministry secretary general Bambang Hendroyono stated, “The ones in protected forests and conservation forests, the government wants to restore after they pay the fine.”
Similar illegal activity for agriculture is widespread in the Amazon forests as well, and this move by the Indonesian government is one in a growing movement to reclaim our forests from industry to help mitigate the effects of Earth’s rising temperatures.
Forests absorb carbon, helping reduce air pollution and cool our planet, so protecting them is vital in the race to slow rising global temperatures. Government action like that being taken by Indonesia is an exciting step in the right direction.
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