Presidential challenger Prabowo Subianto may have missed an opportunity to give incumbent Joko “Jokowi” Widodo a run for his money on environmental issues in the second presidential debate last night.
But experts were quick to lay down inaccuracies in Jokowi’s environmental protection claims during the debate and put them under heavy scrutiny.
Jokowi said his administration slapped Rp 18.3 trillion ($1.3 billion) in fines on 11 companies found guilty of deforestation, a sign that his administration has been more than serious in protecting Indonesia’s often-threatened natural environmental.
’’It is still not clear whether that Rp 18 trillion has actually been paid for or not,” Nirarta Samadhi, director of independent think-tank WRI Indonesia, was quoted as saying by BBC Indonesia.
He said there is still a gap in regulations and enforcement efforts to ensure those fines are paid in full.
Nirarta also said that current regulation only punishes the operating company in environmental violations, not the parent entity which often controls the decision-making.
Jokowi also claimed during Sunday’s debate that the often-lauded infrastructure push under his first term as president has never been embroiled in any controversy or conflict.
His critics quickly pointed out that the claim is simply false.
Infrastructure projects sparked 94 land disputes in 2017, and 16 disputes in 2018, according to Iqbal Damanik, a researcher at non-governmental organization Auriga, as quoted by Kompas.com.
Environmental advocacy group Greenpeace Indonesia has also challenged Jokowi’s claim that there have been no forest fires in the archipelago in the past three years thanks to his administration’s environmental policies and law enforcement.
“There are still forest fires going on even today,” Leonard Simanjuntak, the head of Greenpeace Indonesia, said on Monday as quoted by Tempo.com.
Leonard did admit there has been an improvement in forest fighting effort under Jokowi’s leadership.
Data from the Environment and Forestry Ministry showed that even though fires still ravaged 4,666 hectares of forest land last year, that was already 98 percent less forest area damaged by fire than in 2015.
Regions like Riau and neighboring Singapore and Malaysia—that used to endure months of being blanketed by smog from nearby forest fires every year—have also remained smog-free during the period.
But Leonard said the wet climate in the past three years might have been the prime contributor to the corresponding decline in forest fires—not the Jokowi administration’s policies and law enforcement.
He said Jokowi’s policies on forest fire prevention will be faced with a real test this year when the reduced rainfall that accompanies the El Niño wheather condition is expected to return.