JAKARTA: Indonesia, home to a third of the world's rainforests, has seen its annual deforestation drop by 8.4%, its environment ministry said on Monday, attributing the fall to better control of fires and stricter permitting for tree clearance.
According to its latest available data, Indonesia recorded 104,000 hectares (256,990 acres) of deforested area from July 2021 to June 2022, down from 113,500 hectares in the year prior to that, according to government figures, which did not include numbers for the current year.
"One of the most significant measures is limiting new (clearance) permits on primary forest and peatland," environment ministry official Belinda A. Margono told reporters.
With the world's third biggest rainforest area after Brazil and Congo, Indonesia comes under close scrutiny from environmentalists and famously backtracked from a global pledge by more than 130 countries to end deforestation by 2030, calling it inappropriate and unfair. It advocates replanting programmes instead.
Indonesia is also the top global producer of palm oil, which has been linked to land clearance. More forest land is expected to be taken as the government seeks to lure big-ticket investment to its nickel and electric vehicle sectors.
The country is prone to forest fires, which the government says are often started by farmers to clear land but spread uncontrollably, especially during the dry season.
Greenpeace Indonesia questioned the government data released on Monday, however, including the methodology, which it said was flawed as it did not include forest cleared for industrial purposes.
"This explains why the deforestation rate is low," said Arie Rompas, Greenpeace Indonesia's forest campaigner, who believes the loss is significantly higher.
Asked why industrial land was not included, Belinda of the environment ministry said replanting in those areas meant there had been no net loss of forest.
According to Nusantara Atlas, an independent organisation that tracks deforestation and forest fires Indonesia's forest loss was 208,250 hectares in the calendar year 2022 and 174,640 in 2021, a 16% increase of forest loss. The government data tracks deforestation from July to June of the following year.