Coal Mine Tears Apart Sumatera’s Forest of Hope

Hutan Harapan (Forest of Hope) in Sumatera is the last lowland forest remains in Sumatra. It is one of the largest restoration programs in the world, and the first one in Indonesia. Hutan Harapan was formerly a production forest, which has been converted into ecosystem restoration program.

The initiative was started by BirdLife International, RSPB, and Burung Indonesia. They founded Yayasan Konservasi Ekosistem Hutan Indonesia (Foundation for Indonesian Forest Ecosystem Conservation). To comply to government's regulation, this foundation then formed PT Restorasi Ekosistem Indonesia/REKI (Indonesian Ecosystem Restoration Ltd.) which was granted its first permit  in 2007 to manage a 52,170-hectares land area in Musi Banyuasin regency (Ministry of Forestry's Decree No 293/Menhut-II/2007). The second permit was issued in 2010 for a 46,385-hectares land in Batanghari and Sarolangun regencies (Ministry of Forestry's Decree No 327/Menhut-II/2010). PT REKI's total land concession became 98,555 hectares. The initiative has at least preserved 20% from the totallowland forest coverage in Sumatra, to contribute to Indonesia's nature conservation effort.

hutan harapan

The website ( mentions that administratively Hutan Harapan is located in Batanghari and Sarolangun regencies, Jambi, and Musi Banyuasin regency, South Sumatra. The rainforest lies right in the heart of Sumatra, one of Indonesia's largest islands.

The South Sumatra part of Hutan Harapan lies within Sungai Meranti and Sungai Kapas forest group, while the Jambi part lies within Hulu Sungai Meranti (Sarolangun) and Hulu Sungai Lalan forest group. Hence, these areas are included in the sub-river basin of Meranti, Kapas, and Lalan as well as Musi and Kandang river basins.

Hutan Harapan reinforces global flora and fauns conservation including the Sumatran Tiger, Asian Elephant, Sunbear, Agile Gibbon, Storm's Stork, Hornbill, Jelutong tree, Ironwood, Tembusu, and Keruing. The rainforest is home to 307 bird species, 64 mammals species, 123 fish species, 55 species of amphibians, 71 species of reptiles, and 728 tree species (

Threat of Coal Transport Road

Hutan Harapan, and Indonesia's hope to protect Sumatra's last lowland forest, has been threatened by PT Marga Bara Jaya (PT MBJ)'s plan to open a road to transport coal which runs through Hutan Harapan.

During the environmental impact assessment on 2 July 2019 in Manggala Wana Bakti (Head Office of Indonesian Ministry of Environment and Forestry), alternative roads 2 and 3 was proposed. Alternative road 2 is cutting through Hutan Harapan, while alternative road 3 runs outside Hutan Harapan. Both alternative roads pose great risks for the ecosystem of Hutan Harapan, especially alternative road 2. Road construction will definitely jeopardize the habitat of Sumatran Elephant and Sumatran Tiger, and trigger escalating human-animal conflict in the future. Alternative road 3, while does not traverse Hutan Harapan, is still an immense danger for the forest ecosystem. The construction works and the coal transport traffic would surely disturb the environment.

harimau sumatera

The road construction plan has been around for a while. Previously, there was another similar proposal submitted by PT Musi Mitra Jaya (PT MMJ).

Citing from Mongabay (23 October 2013), the Monistry of Forestry was reluctant about PT MMJ's proposal for a borrow-to-use permit (IPPKH) of Hutan Harapan's area to open coal transport road. PT REKI strongly objected the proposal, based on the national regulation stating that borrow-to-use permit is not to be issued within ecosystem restoration area. Strangely, during a meeting on 3 May 2013 with PT MMJ and PT REKI, the Ministry of Forestry blatantly insisted that PT REKI accept IDR 10 billion compensation money, as suggested by this subsidiary company of Atlas Resource Group.

Civil Society Coalition Refuses Coal Transport Road

The plan to open a coal transport road crossing Hutan Harapan is opposed by the society. Citing Mongabay (2 April 2019), Civil Society Coalition of South Sumatra and Jambi, consisting of 36 organizations, refuses the environmental impact assessment for the road construction submitted by PT MBJ.

The refusal was delivered during a meeting in Palembang about PT MBJ's environmental management plan and environmental monitoring of transport road for coal, forest, and agriculture products in Musi Rawas Utara, Musi Banyuasin regency, South Sumatra and Batanghari regency, Jambi last March.

Yulqori, from KKI Warsi, stated that there are four points declared by the coalition regarding PT MBJ's plan. The members of coalition agreed to refuse the road construction within the area of Hutan Harapan, of which the government has given a permission for PT REKI to manage.

"The coalition refuses the coal transport road construction as proposed by PT MBJ, including its environmental impact assessment," said Yulqori. The coalition members include KKI Warsi, Aliansi Masyarakat Adat Nusantara (AMAN/Indigenous Peoples Alliance) Jambi and South Sumatra, Hutan Kita Institute, Zoological Society of London, Forum Harimau Kita, Indonesian Elephant Conservation Forum, and Legal Aid Institute Palembang  among others (Mongabay, 2/4/2019).

PROFAUNA Indonesia, as a hub for people who cares about wildlife and habitat conservation, also opposes the coal transport road construction. PROFAUNA demands the Ministry of Environment and Forestry to warrant that Hutan Harapan remains intact. As a matter of fact, currently there are other active roads that can be used for transport. These roads cross PT BPP and Conoco Philip's concessions.

"If this road construction plan goes on, it will surely render Indonesia's government's commitment to reduce emission and protect rainforest is questionable," declared Rosek Nursahid, PROFAUNA Indonesia's chairman.

Photo credit: Hutan Harapan

© 2003 - ProFauna Indonesia

ProFauna Indonesia is an Indonesian society for the protection of
wild animals and their habitats