On 10 February 2012, the State Party submitted a report on the state of conservation of the property, providing an overview of actions carried out to address key threats to the property, including road construction, mining, and illegal logging and encroachment. It also provides information on other activities carried out, including boundary demarcation, wildlife monitoring and forest rehabilitation. No Corrective Measures, nor a draft Desired State of Conservation for removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger are proposed for adoption by the Committee.
a) Road construction
The State Party reports that throughout 2011, the Minister of Forestry received requests from regents and governors around Kerinci Seblat National Park (KSNP) to allow the construction of several roads, some of which are suggested to be for evacuation purposes in the event of volcanic eruptions. The State Party notes that a multi-disciplinary coordination team conducted a survey of the proposed road construction routes to review their necessity. The initial report recognizes that the proposed roads cross some primary forest in the wilderness and core zones of the property, would fragment the home ranges of big mammals such as Sumatran Tiger and Sumatran Elephant, and may encourage illegal logging. The final recommendations from the coordination team were expected in March 2012.
The State Party also reports that a ‘special zone’ was established to accommodate road construction between Tanjung Kasri and Renah Kemumu, two enclave villages within KSNP. No further information on the conditions of this ‘special zone’ are provided.
It should be recalled that the Committee, at its 35th session (UNESCO, 2011) requested the State Party to conduct a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) of the cumulative effects of all road development plans in the Bukit Barisan mountain range. The State Party has previously indicated that prior to conducting an SEA, the existing inter-ministerial World Heritage Working Group under the Coordinating Ministry of Social Welfare would need to be reactivated, and had expressed its intention to apply for financial and technical support to reactivate this Group. The State Party, with support from the UNESCO-Jakarta office, is currently in the process of identifying donors to fund the SEA, which is estimated to cost USD 600,000.
b) Encroachment, illegal logging and boundary demarcation
The majority of park activities in 2011 consisted of law enforcement to combat illegal logging and encroachment in the property, particularly in Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park (BBSNP) and Gunung Leuser National Park (GLNP). The report states that in BBSNP the park authorities had set a target to reduce encroachment in eight locations with a total area of 15,527 ha (2,277 households) in 2011, but that in practice, anti-encroachment operations were conducted at over fourty sites. A total figure of the number of households relocated and the area covered is not given.
The lack of on-the-ground boundary demarcation in GLNP has led to increased encroachment at Besitang and Bohorok, and the presence of Acehnese refugees within GLNP in the Sekoci and Sei Lepan areas has resulted in the degradation of an estimated 22,100 ha of forest. According to a media report dated 6 March 2012, the area occupied by Acehnese refugees is claimed as a forest concession by the logging company PT Mulya Karya Jaya, whereas GLNP park authorities note that the area does not form part of the National Park. According to the State Party, the park director was requested in August 2011 to prioritize on-the-ground boundary demarcation of GLNP.
In the case of KSNP, the State Party reports that the demarcation of the boundary of the Siporak Hook, which was repatriated to KSNP in 2004, was started in 2011. It also states that a letter by the regent of Merangin district and the Mayor of Sungai Penuh, dated August 2010, to forbid encroachment on park land appears to be effective in preventing encroachment, and only few cases of encroachment and illegal logging are reported. However, the State Party also notes that in some areas the boundary demarcation has been removed by local communities.
IUCN has received reports indicating that despite the letter issued by the regent of Merangin and the Mayor of Sungai Penuh, encroachers remain in place and new encroachment has occurred in KSNP, including in the important Siporak Hook ecosystem. The same reports note that there is increasing conflict between park authorities, small-holder encroachers and human-rights organizations, particularly in the Merangin district.
IUCN has also learned that the industrial timber plantation company PT Mugitriman International has commenced large scale and intensive timber collection in the former Rimba Karya Indah forest concession in 2011, using extraction methods that breach the company’s Environmental Impact Assessment and that do not follow standard procedures for watershed forests. PT Mugitriman International is also reported to have secured two more timber plantation permits in High Conservation Value Forest (HCVF) adjoining the property, and to have applied for a Commercial Forest Plantation for the primary forests in the Rimba Karya Indah (RKI) finger, which is surrounded on three sides by the property and has been repeatedly recommended for urgent inclusion in KSNP, for the first time by the World Bank in 2002, due to biodiversity and watershed protection values.
A number of reports about an illegal plantation permit in the Tripa Peat Swamps given by the former Governor of Aceh to the palm oil company PT Kallista Alam in August 2011 have been communicated to IUCN. The Tripa Peat Swamps are part of the Leuser Ecosystem which surrounds GLNP, and were included in the provincial government’s map of areas off-limits to forestry activities published in May 2011, as part of a two-year moratorium on new forestry concessions in peat and primary forest. A revised version of this map was issued in November 2011, excluding the Tripa forest from the protected zone.
The Tripa Peat Swamps are recognized as one of only three remaining coastal peat swamps in the Leuser Ecosystem, and as habitat for an exceptional range of biodiversity within the Leuser Ecosystem, including populations of Sumatran orangutan and Sumatran tiger. In reply to a letter sent by the World Heritage Centre expressing concern about the illegal palm oil concession in the Tripa Peat Swamp Forest,the authorities, by letter of 9 May 2012 reported that the Government has conducted investigations which have concluded that the clearance by way of forest fires in certain areas of the Tripa Swamp has impacted on conservation efforts and is in violation of laws. Further investigations will be conducted by the Ministry of Environment and the National Police, and the area of PT Kalista Alam will be included in the second revision of Indicative Map on Moratorium of New Licence.
The State Party notes that the gold mining concession areas of PT Arustirta Power and PT Aspirasi Widya Chandra overlap with GLNP for 1,773 and 161 ha, respectively. The State Party stresses that so far there has not been any exploration activity in either area. It notes that the local government of South Aceh has been requested to clarify the overlap between the mining concessions and GLNP, but that this clarification has not yet been given. A map of five gold mining concessions in the vicinity of GLNP in South Aceh is provided as an annex to the State Party report.
IUCN has received reports that in 2011 PT Aneka Tambang conducted gold mining exploration within the boundaries of KSNP in the Sungai Tenang area, operating under permits that were issued by Jambi Province and local district leaders based on a map that did not recognize the same KSNP boundaries as maps held by the Ministry of Forestry. The Ministry of Forestry is currently investigating the case, in collaboration with the national police authority and the Corruption Eradication Commission. IUCN has also received reports that an Indonesian subsidiary of Sumatra Copper & Gold Mining is conducting exploration activities close to KSNP borders in the Lebong Tandai area and possibly conducting surveys inside KSNP. Furthermore, an Australian-owned coal mining company has reportedly been issued with a Permit in Principle to conduct mining activities in 100,000 ha of HCVF adjoining KSNP in West Sumatra, and open cast iron ore mining is reported to occur close to KSNP borders in Solok Selatan district. IUCN has also received reports that mining surveys (iron ore, coal, and gold) have been conducted within and adjacent to KSNP in North Kerinci and Bungo districts and the Hulu Batang Asai area of Sarolangun district (Jambi Province), as well as in North Bengkulu and Lebong districts (Bengkulu Province). On 10 April 2012, the World Heritage Centre sent a letter to the State Party requesting further information on the reported mining in KSNP, however, no response had yet been received at the time of writing this report.
d) Monitoring system
The State Party provides recent population estimates for some large mammal species in the property, namely Sumatran Rhino, Sumatran Tiger, Orangutan, and Sumatran Elephant. It states that the populations of Sumatran Tiger and Orangutan appear to be increasing, whereas the Sumatran Elephant population shows a 50% decline in BBSNP when comparing the 2010 and 2002 estimates. No population trend is given for Sumatran Rhino, but the State Party notes that there have been no recent cases of rhino poaching in the property. The State Party also notes that population surveys of these species are conducted by a range of organizations and institutions, and that park authorities focus their activities on educating and raising the awareness of related stakeholders, particularly local communities.
IUCN has received reports that in GLNP, the populations of Orangutan, Sumatran Tiger, Sumatran Elephant and Sumatran Rhino are all decreasing, although exact numbers and the extent of the decline are not known. These reports also note that many smaller species, including several songbird species, are also in decline and have disappeared from some areas. IUCN has also received reports that, although the tiger population in KSNP shows an overall increase, reduced tiger presence was recorded in three formerly important tiger habitats in Jambi and Bengkulu districts. These reports note that there is evidence of active tiger poaching in KSNP, including in locations proposed for road development. They also note that there is no formal monitoring of Sumatran Elephant in KSNP, but three elephants were recorded poached in the property and in adjacent forests by the national park’s tiger monitoring team and the specialist tiger protection patrol units. Furthermore, the same reports note that there is intensive pressure on wild bird populations in KSNP, with one investigation suggesting that up to 1,000 birds a month are being trafficked from Kerinci district to other areas of Sumatra, Batam Island and Java Island.
During a high-level meeting with the Vice President of the Republic of Indonesia on 26 October 2011, the Chair of the IUCN Species Survival Commission and his delegation made a recommendation, among others, that the State Party ensure that there is regular, frequent, intensive and independent monitoring of all rhino populations in Indonesia in order to detect population trends, and to inform future conservation and management decisions.
Ecosystem based restoration plan
The State Party notes that in 2011, 8000 ha of BBSNP, 1925 ha of KSNP, and 3740 ha of GLNP have been rehabilitated by planting native tree species, and that budget has been secured to continue implementing the rehabilitation programme in the coming three years. The rehabilitation plan is not further elaborated.
However, unless law enforcement to combat encroachment and illegal logging is improved, the rehabilitation programme will be insufficient to effectively address the threat of forest degradation in the property. The rehabilitation programme should be accompanied by a prioritized programme to improve law enforcement in the whole property and its adjacent areas. The State Party has previously stated that it was in the process of reviewing the 2007 Emergency Action Plan, which was expected to be finalized by end December 2011. In May 2012, the State Party submitted a request for International Assistance to support the development and socialization of the Emergency Action Plan for the integrated and coordinated management of the property, by means of the organization of a two-day high-level workshop.