Aceh’s Citizen Lawsuit: A Protracted Tug-of-war Over the Future of the Leuser Ecosystem

An alliance of concerned citizens has mobilised in response to the Government of Aceh’s legalization of the Spatial Land Use Plan in 2013, a plan which entirely dissolves the protection of the Leuser Ecosystem.

The highly contested Spatial Plan makes no mention of the existence of the forest as a National Strategic Area for environmental function – despite its inclusion in the plan being required by national law. This effectively allows for the whitewashing of previously committed crimes and paves the way for a new wave of increased ecological destruction. For these reasons, the people have taken matters into their own hands and have demanded that the government do its job and protect them.

Representing these demands are nine plaintiffs throughout Aceh who have filed a Class-Action Citizens Lawsuit insisting that the government upholds the legal rights of the people and of nature.They are calling on the Government of Indonesia and the Government of Aceh to enforce the rule of law by cancelling and revising Aceh’s Spatial Plan to ensure that the forest stays intact and their livelihoods are protected as a result.

Within the forest boundaries, there is ongoing road construction, mining activities in the mountains, plantation permits being issued for thousands of hectares and, as a result, the forest where local people have lived for generations is being jeopardized.

If it continues to be destroyed at the current rate, local communities and wildlife who have inhabited these areas for generations will become extremely vulnerable to the increased threat of natural disaster that will ensue.

There are over 5 million people in Aceh province who depend on the Leuser Ecosystem for their livelihoods. It is their home, it serves to provide them with clean water and clean air serving as a crucial watershed for Aceh Province. Its protection is thus essential for local people, agriculture and industry as a means of safeguarding them from recurring environmental disaster such as flooding, drought, landslides, and fires.

Although the Ministry Home Affairs formally rejected the Aceh Spatial Plan in February 2013 due to the exclusion of the Leuser’s protected status, the Acehnese government has failed to follow up on these suggestions and the Minister of Home Affairs has yet to use his authority to invalidate the Spatial Plan. His doing so would effectively force the Government of Aceh to start the lengthy process of rewriting the Spatial Plan from scratch.

After a lengthy process in court, the judges decided against the plaintiff’s lawsuit. The plaintiffs were shocked at this decision, but they have not given up yet. They have filed and sent all paperworks for the case to be brought up at the Supreme Court. Everyone is currently awaiting the decision of the Supreme Court. Until then, the protection of the Leuser Ecosystem hangs in the balance.

Please help us to prevent the Aceh Spatial Plan from legalizing the destruction of the Leuser Ecosystem and, in turn, enable communities to be involved in the policy making processes that will effect their livelihoods. Let’s shift the balance of power to the local level and support people to defend this incredible ecosystem.

Sign the petition, share it with your friends, and make a positive difference for the future of the Leuser Ecosystem.

Watch the GeRAM Animation and in Indonesian

Thank you.

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