Indonesia holds a great opportunity to become a global leader in forest and landscape restoration. One of the government's greatest achievements in the field of forestry and environment in 2016 is the establishment of the Peat Restoration Agency (BRG) mandated to restore the functions of 2 million hectares of peatland degraded by massive fires that occurred in the past few years. The government has also launched a program to plant 100 million bamboos in a number of watersheds.
These positive policies need reinforcement in 2017. This country still has many deforested or degraded lands that need to be restored. According to Global Forest Watch, Indonesia has lost 16 million hectares of forest cover in 2000-2012, or equivalent to 30 times the size of Bali Island. Most of these deforested areas have become degraded lands. The Ministry of Forestry stated in its 2013 that degraded and severely degraded land covers 24.3 million hectares. Numbers of recent landslides and major floods are presumably linked to the many degraded headwaters.
These extensive degraded lands in Indonesia, as well as its negative impacts, have made restoration a necessity, not only to restore the ecological functions of forest such as water, soil, biodiversity and carbon stock, but also to improve the welfare of the people to meet household, agriculture or industrial needs sustainably.
Forest and landscape restoration is also in line with the effort to fulfill various international environmental commitments which the Indonesian Government has ratified, including the national target for greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction from forestry and land sectors. Based on WRI Indonesia’s calculations, the two million hectare-peat restoration effort has the potential to reduce GHG emission up to 7.8 gigaton, which is equal to the US annual GHG emission.
Another international commitment to support restoration is the Bonn Challenge, which is a global movement to restore 150 million hectares of the world's deforested and degraded lands by 2020. Many countries have pledged their commitment in this movement. For instance, Brazil has recently announced its commitment to restoring 12 million hectares of forest under the Bonn Challenge.
Early April 2017 Indonesia will host the Bonn Challenge Regional Roundtable Conference which will be attended by ministers of environment from the Asia Pacific region. The Indonesian government is expected to officially declare its Bonn Challenge commitment during this forum, considering the many benefits of this declaration. Indonesia's commitment in front of an international audience will emphasize and strengthen the momentum of numerous national restoration initiatives, improve Indonesia’s bargaining position in various international environmental conferences, and increase technical as well as financial support for restoration from donors and development partner organizations.
How great is the restoration opportunity that the government can declare for the Bonn Challenge? In the current Minister of Forestry regulation, restoration is limitedly defined as the effort to restore ecosystems to their original conditions through the use of native plant species. In the global level, however, this definition has developed into a much broader scope. Restoration is now emphasizing on parties' participatory processes to apply practices that allow the balance of ecological, social and economic functions of forests and trees for the sake of the future generations, including planting non-native species and agroforestry.
Referring to this broad definition of restoration, a number of national restoration-related initiatives implemented by ministries and agencies can be integrated into the Bonn challenge commitment. These initiatives include peat restoration, degraded forest and land rehabilitation, ecosystem restoration concession scheme, ex-mining area reclamation, in-situ ecosystem restoration within conservation areas, reforestation and mangrove rehabilitation. In fact, social forestry schemes including customary forest can also be considered restoration efforts, considering the importance of socio-economic aspects in restoration. WRI Indonesia calculates that the realistic potential of the Indonesian Government's commitment in these various initiatives can reach more than 10 million hectares.
The great potential and need for restoration, along with strong political will, can set the foundation for the government’s declaration of its ambitious commitment to the Bonn Challenge. Through the active involvement and had work of all stakeholders, this commitment will certainly be realized, which will become Indonesia’s tangible contribution to global environmental conservation and sustainable development.