Jakarta, 9 July 2020 – Greenpeace Indonesia is warning of a potential environmental catastrophe if the Indonesian government presses ahead with plans to launch its controversial New Estate Program, which will see at least 165,000 hectares of carbon-rich peatlands in Kalimantan transformed into rice fields.

As Indonesia’s President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s visited Central Kalimantan to launch the Program,  Greenpeace Indonesia’s Forest Campaign Lead, Arie Rompas said:

“Barely a week after Central Kalimantan declared a state of emergency due to forest fires, President Jokowi travelled here to greenlight the potential destruction of a vast region of  carbon-rich peatlands.  Since 2015, over a quarter of a million hectares of peatland forest have burned in Central Kalimantan and while the scientific community is urging us to protect all peatland to halt climate change, the government instead is backing a plan that looks set to turn this land into another carbon bomb.” [1] [2] [3]

President Jokowi recently appointed Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto, to lead the countries’ National Strategic Program during the COVID-19 pandemic. Both visited Kapuas District, where former President Suharto launched the Mega Rice Project in 1995 with the objective of feeding the nation by turning vast areas of peat swamp into rice paddy. The project destroyed almost a million hectares of carbon-rich peatland and failed drastically to produce rice. Instead, it left behind a landscape of fire-prone wasteland.

“I’ve lived here my entire life and every year I witness the toxic legacy of the failed Mega Rice Project,” said Arie Rompas. “We were promised food and were left with nothing but a broken local economy  and sickness caused by  the haze from the annual fires on the wasteland.”

“Food security can’t be used as an excuse to rush Indonesia into plans that fuel climate change and can’t guarantee a healthy, just and fire-free future. The Government must honour the deep ties that the people of Central Kalimantan have to this land. There must be a public consultation process held with the people most impacted by any future development plan” said Rompas.

Greenpeace urges the government to provide alternative development opportunities for local communities and promote local crops such as sago and corn, which do not depend on peatland exploitation. Keeping Indonesia’s remaining peatland areas intact is a priority, which together with the restoration of degraded peatland by rewetting, revegetation and revitalization should significantly reduce the chance of fires.


[1] Arie Rompas is one of the seven plaintiffs that filled and won the citizen lawsuit in which the Supreme Court upheld earlier rulings by lower courts, who found Jokowi and other members of the government guilty of unlawful acts during the devastating fires of 2015 that resulted in unprecedented environmental damage and harm to citizens.

[2] Analysis of data for the burned area (2015-2019) and Peat Ecosystem Function from MoEF showing total burned peatlands in Central Kal 266,484.9 ha

The Peat Restoration Agency (BRG), established in the wake of the 2015 fires and tasked to lead nationwide efforts to restore peatlands, has expressed its support to Jokowi’s plans, despite 266,484.9 ha of ​​peat burned in Central Kalimantan in 2019 [1] and the fact that the province has a priority for peatland restoration with a target of ​​713,076 ha.

[3] At the peak of the 2015 forest fires crisis, daily greenhouse gas emissions from forest and peat fires in Indonesia regularly surpassed the daily emissions of the USA.


Sol Gosetti, International Communications Coordinator, Indonesia Forest, sol.gosetti@greenpeace.org, +44 (0) 7807352020