Have you ever been in a city or town covered in smog? Have you ever imagined living in such a place where you wake up with a feeling of breathlessness? This is an almost everyday reality for some of my relatives in Riau Province in the central part of Sumatra Island, Indonesia. A long time ago, Riau Province was known as the source of oil. Nowadays, it is said that this has already declined because of the haze from forest and land fires.
Corruption occurs in the forestry sector in Indonesia. Some companies get their mining or plantation licenses even though they weren’t able to fulfill their obligations or failed to comply with environmental and forestry regulations. Thus, billions of dollars are lost because of corruption. According to the Global Forest Watch Report, bribery weakens the regulations related to land use; therefore, it has an enormous impact on local communities, particularly the indigenous people. Their homeland is being exploited and their voices are ignored.
As the country with the third biggest tropical rainforests, after Brazil and the Democratic Republic of Congo, all of these natural resources in Indonesia have to be supported with environmental law enforcement and good forest governance. Good forest governance must be coupled with good forest information. Experts say forests are essential in global efforts to fight climate change and ensure a sustainable future. Simply put, a transparent and accountable licensing process is an important catalyst for good forest governance. Around 1.6 billion people, including more than 2,000 indigenous cultures, depend on forests for their livelihood, according to a UN Report. But bribery is the menace that has been used to persuade law enforcement officers to avoid reporting violations or to withdraw the sanctions.
As written in the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC), corruption is the abuse of entrusted power for private gain; it undermines good governance and the rule of law, leads to violations of human rights, and erodes the quality of life. Looking at this problem, Anti-Corruption International is an innovative idea created by students from all around the world, and it gives me an optimistic feeling that hope still exists for this given situation. Eradicating corruption in the forestry sector in my country seems like a utopian dream. But I am hopeful that this utopian dream would also give us something to aim for – a goal that we will reach one day if we keep walking the path we have already started on.
The world’s natural resources has to be managed well for the current and future generations. The weakness of regulations have created a number of risks to that goal, the loss of biodiversity included. Environmental degradation only aggravates issues related to climate change, and other bigger sanitation and pollution problems.
It should be a meaningful reflection for me and all other young people to take part in environmental law enforcement. Personally, it makes me understand the struggle of achieving justice. We can make the difference in resolving environmental cases through becoming nature’s protector, police and defender. As our former president once said, “What we do today is not for our own benefit, but for the billions who will inherit the earth.” Indonesia has made the international commitment to reduce emission from deforestation and forest degradation. We are waiting for the fulfilment of that promise. It is not just a duty for the government, but for all of us global citizens who must care for our world. And I choose to not keep silent about it!
What we are doing to the forests of the world is but a mirror reflection of what we are doing to ourselves and to one another.” – Mahatma Gandhi
Contributor: Maria Anindita Nareswari (ACI Indonesia)