August 8, 2018

Govt sends letter asking WRI to correct false GFW data

( - The Indonesian Environment and Forestry Ministry has taken the step of writing to the World Resources Institute (WRI) to ask this global research organization to ensure that it immediately corrects some serious data errors posted on the Global Forest Watch (GFW) interactive map.

"The WRI must correct these grave data errors as they are being misused and have already disrupted Indonesia," Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya explained at her official residence in Jakarta (Aug 4).

The letter was signed by the ministry's mapping authority, Director General of Forestry Planology and Environmental Governance Sigit Hardwinarto (Aug 2).

Among other things, the letter states that the corrections already made by the WRI after a joint clarification meeting was held with the ministry (Jul 12), as reported by (Jul 13), still leave substantive errors that need to be corrected.

The minister acknowledged that the loss of natural forest in certain areas of Indonesia is a real concern, but cautioned that exaggerating the extent of natural forest lost by more than 100% by the WRI is unacceptable because it simply doesn't align with the facts.

Since it was posted, GFW has yet to withdraw the claim that "In 2017, it (Indonesia) lost 1 million hectares of natural forest", as shown below.

In the joint clarification, WRI Indonesia country director Tjokorda Nirarta Samadhi, representing the organization, declared that the WRI claimed figure was confusing seeing that the true amount is around 400,000 hectares (of lost natural forest).

Citing her experience in such matters, the minister said, "Spatial analysis is part of my field of expertise. It is clearly harmful to use misleading spatial data to profile a country. In fact, this is a totally irresponsible move on the part of the WRI."

The ministry's letter also criticizes an analysis by the WRI's Distinguished Senior Fellow Frances Seymour which profiles Indonesia using inaccurate GFW data.

The WRI representative in the joint clarification meeting said that GFW data was merely (used as) an exercise. However, this excuse was also slammed by Minister Nurbaya as completely unacceptable considering that the data has been improperly used to paint Indonesia in a bad light.

Recording delay

The letter from the ministry to the WRI also points out the time-series data errors in the GFW map, whereby 2015's forest fires were included as evidence from 2016. According to the ministry, such evidence of forest fires must be included in the year when they took place.

In the joint clarification meeting, the WRI explained that that there had been a delay in recording the evidence of 2015's forest fires, such that it was included as evidence from 2016. 

This explanation is technically baseless, according to the ministry, as the misrecorded data suggests that in 2016 Indonesia was still enduring extensive forest fires, even though there was absolutely no evidence of this in reality. 

The following photos depict examples of 2015's peat fires that were not included as evidence from that year, but were instead included as evidence from 2016. 

In the letter, the ministry also requests that the WRI correct the GFW maps containing these time-series based evidence errors. 

“We are still waiting for the WRI to act in good faith by correcting the serious data errors in the GFW maps, and to also correct the analysis which was conducted by referring to misleading data,” Minister Nurbaya asserted. 

The letter also laments the fact that the WRI has yet to hold a press conference concerning its serious data errors, especially those related to the claim that "In 2017, it (Indonesia) lost one million hectares of natural forest", a figure refuted by the WRI itself in its joint clarification meeting with the ministry.