South Sumatra is seen as the most vulnerable province to land conflicts on the island of Sumatra as 20 percent of its territory has overlapping functions, according to the One Map Policy Acceleration (KSP) team, which has been tasked with compiling and integrating 85 thematic maps of the archipelago.
The head of the Geospatial Information Agency’s (BIG) Center of Thematic Integration and Mapping, Lien Rosalina, said the integrated map was not yet complete, but it had indicated that the 20 percent overlap was the biggest in Sumatra.
Overlapping land claims, Lien explained, often led to land conflicts, such as when industrial areas take up fields allotted for other purposes or when farmers’ land cultivation rights (HGU) for a certain area are not in line with the region’s spatial planning.
These incidents emerge when involved institutions and parties do not use the same spatial reference, Lien said, adding that 17,656 plots of land in South Sumatra overlap, most of which are concession areas.
The integration of maps based on agreed standards — such as a single map reference — would help prevent land conflicts, she suggested. The integration should be followed up at the ministry level with a recommendation for land overlapping settlements, she added.
With regard to the KSP team, Lien said that so far, it had produced 85 thematic maps for 19 ministries in 34 provinces.
“The maps are issued by related ministries. As an example, the map on peatland is to be issued by the Agriculture Ministry.”
Chandra Irawadi Wijaya of the World Resources Institute (WRI) Indonesia said that fairer and sustainable land management policies were needed to protect the rights of all stakeholders.
The single map policy will become a basis for spatial planning that could protect forests and land, especially peatland, which have huge carbon reserves.
South Sumatra already has a gubernatorial regulation on a single map policy and geospatial planning, but land conflicts have occurred for a long time, he said.
“The land overlapping has been mapped, but they have not been resolved.”
A dispute in Tulung Selapan district, Ogan Komering Ilir regency, between locals and PT Bintang Harapan Palma, which has operated a concession on peatland in the area since 2017, is one example.
“We have objections, but not all of us can express our aspirations,” Sukri of Jerambah Rengas, Tulung Selapan, told The Jakarta Post, on Monday.
He said the company’s presence had affected residents’ livelihood and the environment because it had built canals in the peatland area, causing floods in some areas and drought in others.
“We are surprised that a bylaw bans us from burning land to preserve peatland, but the company is free [to exploit the peatland],” Sukri said, adding that the company’s activities also threatened the natural habitat of tigers, raising fears that the animals would eventually enter residential areas.
The Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) considers the presence of a company in peatland areas as proof of the government’s lack of transparency.
Walhi South Sumatra executive director M. Hairul Sobri said his side had reported such cases to the Environment and Forestry Ministry, but the ministry only ordered regional administrations to supervise the companies involved and recommended that they compensate locals.
Legalizing the operation of companies on peatland demonstrates the government’s inconsistency as at the same time, the government also restored peatland areas affected by major forest and land fires in 2015, Hairul added.
“The government should be responsible for the policy it has made. It should offer solutions, […] not create new conflicts,” he said.