The Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra (TRHS) was inscribed in the Natural World Heritage list in 2004 by World Heritage Committee (WHC)-UNESCO for its unique natural beauty, the importance of its habitats for the conservation of endemic species, and the significant role of its on-going ecological and biological processes in its ecosystems to the global landscape. TRHS comprises three widely separated National Parks (NP); Gunung Leuser, Kerinci Seblat and Bukit Barisan Selatan. They cover a total area of 2.5 million hectares, constituting one of the biggest conservation areas in Southeast Asia.
The main threats to TRHS integrity are deforestation and encroachment of NP areas due to the expansion of monocultures (oil palm, rubber, coffee, etc.) and infrastructure development. Encroachment is often compounded by other problems, such as illegal logging and poaching. Problems have become entrenched due to the economic and political interests associated with the use of resources within park boundaries. In 2011 these ongoing threats led the World Heritage Committee to include TRHS in its list of World Heritage sites in danger.
In 2014, UNESCO asked TBI Indonesia to conduct an analysis of the encroachment currently sustained by the three parks, and to evaluate the effectiveness of past efforts to contain and avert encroachment. The findings are to be used as a basis to formulate anti-encroachment measures.
In Indonesia, NP management authority lies with the central government. NP authorities tend to overlook the importance of district governments as regional stakeholders. As a result, local authorities don’t feel responsible for NP management. In contrast, they encourage people to live on encroached lands by providing grants, building schools and other public facilities, and administratively acknowledging the encroached areas as villages. The impacts of district partitioning and development in recent years have created a high demand for land for infrastructure, settlement areas and agriculture. To speed up regional economic development, district governments stimulate large-scale investment in natural resource use.
NP authorities have used a range of strategies to counter encroachment: enforcement by patrolling; community development; and restoration of the encroached areas. None of these have been very successful, due to the small scale at which they were carried out. Establishing a presence in the form of NP staff as a cheap and effective measure to prevent encroachment proved to be difficult to implement due to the limited incentives for staff.
The following are the strategies proposes based on the results on past anti-encroachment measures (1990 – 2014):
- Strengthen Conservation Governance: (a) Building stronger collaboration with stakeholders at regional and national level; (b) Strengthen security patrol and ground presence of NP staff; (c) Strengthen Village Conservation Governance: Linking village development to conservation; (d) Enforce Agrarian Reform and Constitutional Court Ruling No.35/2012; (e) Strengthen law enforcement targeted to syndicates and mastermind behind illegal activities; (f) Monitoring encroachment areas using conservation drone; (g) Strengthen collaboration with conservation and social NGOs;
- Integrated landscape approaches: Shifting from PA to integrated landscape based management: (a) Manage TRHS through integrated landscape approaches; (b) Enforce voluntary and mandatory certifications to control oil palm plantations expansion surrounding TRHS; (c) Improve SVLK standard to control IPK from PA; (d) Enhance the quality of ecosystem restoration; (e) Pride campaigns and environmental education;
- Build a social buffer zone along the critical Parks boundaries: (a) Build community forestry schemes on special use zones (b) Establish a ministerial decree arranging procedures for NTFP collection by local communities; (c) Build long-terms partnerships, facilitate community development and provide technical assistance to communities and key champions surrounding the park; (d) Establish research areas, intensify research activities and link with international ecotourism operators.
The formulated strategies will be used as key reference by the Indonesian Governement (Ministry of Life Environment and Forestry/MoEF and related agencies at national and regional level) to develop actions plan.
The feasibility of the strategies have been intensively discussed with key staffs of the three Parks and MoEF, NGOs and Indonesian experts during the workshop ‘Finding the right solutions for encroachment problems in TRHS’ (Jakarta, 19-20 May 2015) organized by MoEF and UNESCO.