Indonesia’s forest and peatland fires have flared up again this season, sending smoke and haze from the island of Sumatra north across the Malacca Strait to Malaysia. The fires are now an annual consequence of the mismanagement of Indonesia’s forests. With the removal of a single word from the country’s constitution, however, that may change for the better.
On May 16, Indonesia’s Constitutional Court deleted the word “state” from this clause: “Customary forests are state forests located in the areas of custom-based communities.” That one adjustment denied the government ownership of forests on the lands of the nation’s indigenous people. By returning the forests to their traditional stewards, the court’s ruling could come close to turning off Indonesia’s greenhouse-gas spigot. Yet more work is needed.