Peat agency falls short of professional standards by failing to cite key data source

JAKARTA (foresthints.news) - It is considered standard professional practice for data sources to be listed by users, especially if the data concerned forms the basis of an analysis performed for the interest of the users, and the results of the use of this data are then published.

In light of this, Indonesia’s Ministry of the Environment and Forestry has warned the country's Peatland Restoration Agency (BRG), by means of a formal letter (dated Jan 17), to rectify its 2016 performance maps which fail to mention that the data used in them derives from the ministry.

“The most important thing for the peat agency is to respond to the letter as soon as possible. In fact, an informal verbal request was previously delivered, but there was no follow up from the peat agency,” Secretary General of the Ministry Dr Bambang Hendroyono told foresthints.news (Jan 25).

Almost 100% of the spatial data used by the peat agency involving seven peat restoration priority provinces originates from the ministry.

“The peat agency needs to be fair and honest. It is obligatory for data sources to be provided, no matter what the publication, both in a legal sense and in terms of the principles of good governance. This obligation is generally valid for all professional purposes, whether from the government or outside the government, in Indonesia or outside of Indonesia,” the Secretary General pointed out.

Bambang emphasized that the spatial data from the ministry used by the peat agency is not just ordinary spatial data but has a legal dimension to it.

“The spatial data stemming from the ministry has a legal basis and is also legally binding. This means that the peat agency must cite the ministry as the source of the data in its maps,” cautioned Bambang, who signed the warning letter on behalf of Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya. The letter in question was also forwarded to the Presidential Chief of Staff.

The four 2016 peat agency performance maps below do not list the ministry as the source of their spatial data.

Maps to be adjusted

When asked by foresthints.news for a response to the ministry's letter (Jan 25), Peat Restoration Agency Chief Nazir Foead said that the maps published by the peat agency will be adjusted to cite their data sources, whether this is the ministry or other sources.

“The maps will be complemented with additional data sources, including from the Environment and Forestry Ministry,” he explained.

The Environment and Forestry Ministry's demand that the peat agency list the ministry as the source of its data in the legends of its maps is seen as completely justified, considering that the foundations of these maps overwhelmingly rely on spatial data legally sourced from the ministry.

Misclassification of Sebangau National Park

As previously reported by foresthints.news, the ministry has also appealed for the peat agency not to use the term 'zona budidaya' (cultivation zone) for conservation areas and protection forests incorporated within its targeted indicative peat restoration map. This practice could have an extremely dangerous impact in the field, according to the ministry.

Even though almost 100% of the data used by the peat agency in its peat restoration indicative map released in mid-September last year comes from the ministry, not all of the classifications used in this map are in accordance with the ministry's data.

“For example, parts of the Sebangau National Park have been classified as cultivation zones by the peat agency. This could have perilous consequences, both legally and at the ground level. This must be immediately revised by the peat agency. These classifications do not come from the ministry's data,” Professor San Afri Awang, the Ministry’s Director General of Forestry Planology and Environmental Governance, told foresthints.news (Jan 19).

The following Google Earth images show the parts of the Sebangau National Park that have been classified by the peat agency as cultivation zones.

San Afri said that the peat agency's mistake in classifying certain conservation areas, such as parts of the Sebangau National Park, and protection forests as cultivation zones had been directly conveyed to it.

“I have asked the peat agency chief to correct the classification of conservation areas and protection forests as cultivation zones,” the peat agency steering member told foresthints.news (Jan 24).

Sebangau National Park is a peatland landscape covering an area of more than half a million hectares. This peatland ecosystem forms the most significant habitat of the Bornean orangutan in Indonesian Borneo.