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IPS: 'Participatory Map Vital for Indonesia’s Environment Plans'
Indonesia's ambitious forest conservation and emission reduction plans depend crucially on how soon it can develop a 'participatory map' in which all stakeholders figure.
Participatory maps include not only topographical data but also details like customary forest use by communities living near the forests.
"I think it would be a great story of democracy and reforms, if the map is developed in a transparent and accountable manner with the participation of all parties," Leif John Fosse, senior adviser to the Norwegian government's International Climate and Forest Initiative, told IPS.
"The map can be updated bi-annually," said Fosse, a delegate at an international conference on forest tenure and reform held Jul. 11 - 15 on this island, 1060 km south of Jakarta. "All groups can have access to it and their inputs used for continuous updating in a dynamic manner."
Norway is providing a billion US dollar loan to Indonesia to help this country cut down its emissions by at least 26 percent and protect its forest cover from shrinking further.
On its part, the Indonesian government has expressed keenness to put together a participatory map involving local communities.
"We want to set a challenge to our neighbours. We want to show others that Indonesia can do this," Iman Santosa, director-general of the Indonesian ministry of forestry, told IPS on the sidelines of the conference.
Existing maps show 72 million hectares of primary and peat land forest, but critics point out that they do not show degraded areas or indicate the condition of the forests.
Importantly, the maps also do not have any information on customary use of forests. Santosa told IPS that his ministry was in discussions with AMAN, a coalition of Indonesia’s indigenous and forest community groups, on gaining details of customary usage in the forest areas.
"Unfortunately there is not much information available on that, but we are discussing with AMAN representatives on how to gain inputs on customary usage," Santosa said.
The job of incorporating customary usage on the planned participatory map is likely to be a tough, contentious task.
"There is no wide acceptance of such maps (that include customary usage) because there is no legal basis for those maps and the usages," Albertus Pramono, a representative of JKPP, an Indonesian grassroots group, said.
Pramono said there was also limited knowledge among those living near forests on boundaries and mapping. "In many instances the village itself encompasses the forest boundary."
Even in neighbouring Malaysia, where participatory maps have been accepted by courts, difficulties had cropped up while developing the maps and gaining legal recognition for them.
"There is limited documentation on customary usage of land," Mark Bujang, executive director of the Borneo Resource Institute (BRIMAS), a grassroots group representing indigenous communities of the island of Sarawak, in north-west Malaysia, said at the conference. "What is known comes down mainly from oral descriptions."
The mapping process is bound to show up the seriousness of the Indonesian government in factoring in customary usage of forest land. As things stand the government controls over 70 percent of some 190 million hectares spread over a vast archipelago – a legacy from the colonial era.
Major Asian countries like Nepal, Thailand and Cambodia have devolved land rights to local communities but Indonesia, which has the world’s fifth-largest forested area, has bucked the trend with its communities having rights in less than one percent of the forests.
As the conference ended government representatives said the country’s vast forest estates would be mapped using satellite technology, but complemented by handwritten maps drawn up in consultation with communities living close to the forests.
Bujang said government involvement in the participatory mapping process boded well for its success. "One of the bigger obstacles of getting recognition for participatory mapping has been lack of government input in the process," Bujang said.
"If the government’s cartography department is involved then the recognition process becomes that much easier," said Bujang, adding that governments stood to gain from such maps as they make vital data visible.
Bujang lamented the fact there was so far no explicit recognition of such maps, despite their increasing use. "Governments have to be very courageous to accept these maps," he observed.
Fosse, for all his advocacy, also agreed that it would not be easy to come up with an Indonesian particpatory map that will satisfy everyone.
Santosa, however, told IPS that his government was fully committed to meeting the pledges it had made at the conference.
"We are not a rich country, we are a developing country. But we want to show the world that we can do it and tell them [other developing countries] that if we can do it, you can also," he said.
Posted By Adam Houston at 12:24pm on July 22, 2011
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