JAKARTA — Conflicts over land flared up across Indonesia in 2020, as Indigenous and rural communities tried to hold off pulpwood, palm oil and logging companies ramping up their expansion during the COVID-19 pandemic. The flurry of activity came despite the economic slowdown wrought by the government’s response to the pandemic, and suggests the companies were taking advantage of the situation to lay claim to disputed territory, according to the Consortium for Agrarian Reform (KPA), an NGO that advocates for rural land rights. In its year-end report, the KPA recorded 138 land conflicts between April and September 2020, up from 133 in the same period in 2019. The 2019 cases occurred during a strong economy, when GDP grew by 5.01%, while the 2020 cases were recorded during Indonesia’s first recession in two decades, when the economy shrank by 4.4%. While the increase in the number of conflicts is small, it’s highly unusual, given that such cases decline during a weak economy as companies put their investment and expansion plans on hold, said KPA secretary-general Dewi Kartika. For the whole of 2020, the KPA recorded 241 land conflicts involving 359 villages and spanning a combined area of 624,272 hectares (1.54 million acres). In 2008, during the last global recession, the KPA identified only 24 land conflicts across Indonesia, Dewi said. “We concluded that there’s been large-scale land grabbing amid the pandemic,” she said at the launch of the report. She added that companies took advantage of the social-distancing measures imposed by…This article was originally published on Mongabay Läs mer

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