This first appeared on http://en.hukumonline.com. This is a slightly modified version of that article.
The House of Representatives (Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat / DPR) has passed the Bill on the Protection of Agricultural Lands for Sustainable Crops. The bill was enacted under the mandate of Law No. 26 of 2007 on Spatial Planning which requires that a law be enacted to protect agricultural lands for sustainable crops. The bill also recognizes the right to agricultural land for sustainable crops is a human right that must be guaranteed. The bill also recognizes that there is a need to ensure the supply of land for sustainable crops as a means of ensuring crop independence.
The premise of the bill is that agricultural land for sustainable crops is an integral part of the lives and prosperity of the nation. The rapid development of Indonesia that encroaches upon land that was previously farmed means that the ability to produce sustainable crops diminishes each time agricultural land is converted into residential or industrial zones. The government has determined that the best way to protect this agricultural land from future residential or industrial development is to designate it as agricultural land and then put in place provisions to protect it.
Therefore, the bill sets out that there are certain parcels of land that are protected for use for sustainable crops. However, the government has also realized that with an ever-expanding population, the mere protection of land for agriculture is not sufficient by itself. As such, the bill also sets out provisions to allow for enhancing the productive capabilities of that land. The bill achieves this by regulating all matters relating to planning, determining, developing, utilizing, managing, controlling, and supervising the lands.
It is worth noting that the provisions that protect agricultural lands designated for sustainable crops from transformation is not absolute. Where there is a public interest need to transform then land, then this may be authorized. The elucidation to Article 44(2) defines what sort of projects would constitute the public interest. Some of these projects include, among others, roads, irrigation channels, airports, train stations and rail networks, and electricity generation sites.
When the government acquires designated agricultural land in the public interest, compensation is to be paid. This compensation can be financial or it may be in the form of a land swap.
There are two types of sanctions set out in the bill: administrative and criminal. The administrative sanctions are standard warning letters and fines, among others. The criminal sanctions provide for terms of imprisonment up to a maximum of 7 years, and criminal fines of up to IDR 7 billion.
All implementing regulations mandated by the provisions in this bill are to be implemented within 24 months of the bill’s enactment.
Another issue that the bill sort of alludes to but does not really address is food sustainability with respect to supply. The idea that protecting agricultural land for sustainable crops is an honorable one. However, a more pressing concern over time is going to be feeding the people. Indonesia is heading towards a scenario where there are going to be more people to feed and an inability to feed them. Simply, there is not enough land to protect as agricultural land without reducing more of Indonesia's natural forests to farm land in order to be food self-sufficient.
Climate change, irrespective of whether it is attributed to human-made global warming or a natural phenomenon, is also going to be a major consideration going forward.
The bill is interesting for what it tries to protect, but really for the bill to have meaning it needs to be part of a much greater regulatory initiative directed to greater and longer-lasting food self-sufficiency.