Indonesian Minister Denies Access to Concession Maps

19 July 2013

Indonesian Environment Minister Balthasar Kambuaya has determined that “concession maps” showing where companies have logging and agricultural rights are not publicly disclosable.

Environmental activists say the maps can help determine who should be accountable for forest fires that recently have caused major haze problems.

Questions are being raised not only about whether Kambuaya’s interpretation is legally correct, but also about whether it contradicts the government’s Open Government Partnership promise to create a one map portal.

According to some news reports, both Indonesia and Malaysia are resisting making official maps public, but they may share the maps among the governments.

Kumbuaya made his statement July 17, according to media reports such as this one. The region is grappling with major smog from forest fires on Sumatra Island and his comments came after a “haze committee” meeting of officials from four affected Southeast Asian countries. Kambuaya said eight companies are being investigated.

“We are not allowed to publish concession maps to the public,” he said.

Companies would “feel compromised in terms of their competitiveness by releasing these data,” he told The Straits Times.

Singapore’s environment minister, Vivian Balakrishnan, had urged the public release of the maps.

The maps were previously available. The World Resource Institute at the end of June issued an analysis based on 2010 concession maps published publicly by the Ministry of Forestry’s app gis website. They were downloaded in 2011. As of end of June, however, the maps are no longer downloadable to the public.

Conflict With OGP Plan?

Whether this position contravenes the Indonesian promise in its OGP national action plan is being examined by activists. The plan promises the creation of a one map portal by December 2013 and says it will include “licenses data.”

The action plan says the government will “develop a one map portal to promote efficiency on Forestry Management and promote transparency, accountability and public participation in the area of environment, natural resources and spatial data management.” Indonesia is a co-chair of the OGP. FreedomInfo.org has requested comment from one of Indonesia’s OGP representatives.

License data is considered a broader term, covering the permit itself, administrative requirements needed for the issuance of the permit, as well as the concession map of certain area.

The Public Information Disclosure Act includes exemptions for business secrets, but environmentalist counter that the information should be disclosed because of an overriding public interest.

The lack of official, accurate data on the locations of the concessions makes it harder to link that data with satellite fire data.

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