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FGD on Raising the Issue of Environment and Disasters in Regional Development Activities

By: Fariz Panghegar, Traction Energy Asia

As an archipelagic state located in the Ring of Fire, Indonesia has the potential for fertile soil and abundant natural resources. However, the threat of of natural and environmental disasters is constant, which could ultimately cripple the potential and competitiveness of the region if the direction of the development planning does not pay attention to the carrying capacity of the environment. Traction Energy Asia summarizes the current condition of environmental sustainability, environmental disasters, and issues in the implementation of regional development program through Focus Group Discussion (FGD) sessions for the Provinces of Riau, West Kalimantan, Central Sulawesi, and Gorontalo.

The series of FGDs was one of the activities conducted by Traction Energy Asia to encourage environment-based regional development planning and environmental disaster response. The FGDs were attended by representatives of civil society, academics, journalists, experts on environmental and disaster issues, business actors, as well as officials from central and regional governments. The input and suggestions from the participants will be used to inform future activities, namely seminars, technical guidance, and coaching clinics, with the aim of assisting regencies and municipalities to prepare the Regional Medium-Term Development Plan (RPJMD) that is based on the environment and response to environmental disasters. The FGD was carried out online in three sessions, on 4 November 2020 for the province of Central Sulawesi, and on 5 November 2020 for the provinces of Riau, West Kalimantan and Gorontalo.

The FGD opened with presentations from M. Saefudin, an environmental expert, and Joko Tri Haryanto from the Fiscal Policy Agency, Ministry of Finance. In his presentation, Saefudin explained the importance of maintaining a balance between development orientation to improve social welfare and efforts to maintain the carrying capacity of the environment. Regional development that is not oriented toward environmental sustainability would lead to environmental damage and place communities in a vulnerable position to be affected by environmental disasters. On the other hand, Joko Tri Haryanto’s presentation emphasized on Green Budget Tagging to measure the quality of regional development programs and budgeting based on environmental sustainability. Aspects of quality measured include the environmental sustainability level of the development program and the budgeting effectiveness. With Green Budget Tagging, the regions will no longer focus solely on the quantity of the programs and the percentage of the budget, but also on the quality of the programs and budget effectiveness (value for money).

According to the FGD participants in the four provinces, there are five environmental issues and disasters faced by the communities in the regencies/municipalities of Riau, West Kalimantan, Gorontalo, and Central Sulawesi Provinces. First is the exploitation of land and mining resources which are more oriented toward economic profit and do not pay attention to the carrying capacity of the environment. This is indicated by changes in the Regional Spatial Plan (RTRW), which later caused large-scale land use change.

Photos of Central Sulawesi FGD Session

Second of all is the high rate of deforestation followed by forest conversion for other purposes, especially for palm oil plantations and agricultural land. The deforestation rate varies between provinces. Based on the research published by the Central Sulawesi Government Forestry Unit, the deforestation rate of forest areas in the regencies/municipalities ranges from 0.4% to 2.6% per year of the total forest area. For the past 5 years, more than 118,000 hectares of forest areas have been deforested in Central Sulawesi. The same thing happened to more than 260,000 hectares of forest areas in West Kalimantan, 420,000 hectares in Riau, and 18,000 hectares in Gorontalo.

The third issue is the destruction of water resources in the regions. This is indicated by the destruction of the watershed (DAS) ecosystem in the upstream, midstream, and downstream areas. One of the signs of this damage is the occurrence of critical land in the watershed. According to the 2019 data from BPDAS-KLHK, the area of critical land in Gorontalo reached 332,091 hectares, or 28% of the total land area, whereas in West Kalimantan, Central Sulawesi, and Riau it reached 1,015,099 hectares (7%), 264,424 hectares (4%), and 706,167 hectares (8%) respectively. In addition to watershed damage, river quality has also decreased due to physical, chemical, and biological degradation of water quality caused by waste and garbage disposal activities of households and businesses.

Photos of Gorontalo and West Kalimantan FGD Sessions

The fourth issue is related to institutions and human resources. According to the FGD participants, this can be seen from the lack of synergy between Regional Apparatus Organizations (OPD) which are mandated with environmental and disaster management. The condition is exacerbated by the regional leaders’ lack of awareness of environmental and disaster issues. Currently, many regencies in West Kalimantan, Central Sulawesi, and Gorontalo have yet to be equipped with a Regional Disaster Management Agency (BPBD). Consequently, the disaster mitigation efforts are minimal. The FGD participants also explained that not all regencies/municipalities have Disaster Management Plan (RPB), Disaster Risk Assessment (KRB), Regional Action Plan for Disaster Management (RAD-PB), and Regional Contingency Plan documents that can be used for important reference in the preparation of regional development planning.

Lastly, issues regarding policy, which include partial planning, weak synergy between regional agencies and central government, low community participation in development planning, and lack of firmness in the preparation and implementation of the Regional Spatial Plan that pays attention to the carrying capacity of the environment. The FGD participants pointed out that the five issues made the regional governments unable to anticipate environmental disasters. The potential disasters are summarized in the following table:

Potential Environmental Disasters in the 4 Provinces

1. Forest and Land Fires Forest and Land Fires Forest and Land Fires Forest and Land Fires
2. Flood Flood Flood Flood
3. Flash Flood Flash Flood Flash Flood Abrasion
4. Landslide Landslide Landslide Disease Outbreak (KLB)
5. Abrasion Abrasion Abrasion Social Conflict
6. Earthquake Earthquake Liquefaction
7. Tsunami Tsunami Earthquake
8. Disease Outbreak (KLB) Social Conflict Tsunami
9. Social Conflict Social Conflict
10. Drought

Source: Indonesian Disaster Data and Information, 2020 & FGD Findings

In the Riau FGD session, the Regional Research and Development Planning Agency (Bappedalitbang) of Riau Province confirmed that there is approximately 701,000 hectares of critical land in Riau. To solve the issue, Riau Government is committed to carrying out development that is based on environmental sustainability and disaster resilience, as seen in the Riau Hijau theme of the province’s RPJMD. The Development Goal of Riau’s RPJMD for 2019–2024 is to actualize the environmentally-friendly development (Riau Hijau), with environmental indicators as follows:

  1. Greenhouse Gas Effect Reduction Indicator. 204.61 MtCO2e (BaU Emission Projection in 2020 = 408.551 MtCO2e).
  2. Environmental Quality Index (EQI) of Riau Province was 68.64 in 2018 and 71.94 in 2020.
  3. Greenhouse gas emission was 396.651 GgCO2e in 2018 and 71.96 GgCO in 2020.

Photos of Riau FGD Session

The planning at provincial government level requires support from the planning at regency and municipality levels in Riau as well as community participation. Synergies and collaborations between the government, business actors, and communities play an important role in ensuring that the development stays on the path of environmental sustainability. According to the Chief of Riau Malay Ethnic Institution, Al Azhar, sustainable-oriented development should be instilled into people’s mindset from an early age through educational and cultural institutions so that they keep upholding the values when they grow up to be policymakers, business actors, and other stakeholders. If in the past cultural education was focused on cultural expression, today’s educational and cultural curricula should emphasize the harmony between human and other living beings.

  1. Maintaining the Balance of Natural Resources to Achieve the Sustainable Development Goals in the Regencies/Municipalities of Gorontalo and West Kalimantan Provinces
  2. Maintaining the Balance of Natural Resources to Achieve the Sustainable Development Goals in the Regencies/Municipalities of Riau Province
  3. Maintaining the Balance of Natural Resources to Achieve the Sustainable Development Goals in the Regencies/Municipalities of Central Sulawesi Province
  4. Implementing Green Budget Tagging in Regional Development Planning

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