JAKARTA — The Indonesian government has walked back its denial that deforestation for coal mines exacerbated recently deadly flooding in southern Borneo, saying it will now push to rehabilitate abandoned mining pits. But the damage from decades of industrial expansion across the once-forested landscape of South Kalimantan province is already be too extensive for a return to nature, an activist says. The floods in mid-January, which displaced more than 113,000 people in 11 of 13 districts across the province and claimed 24 lives, have been declared the worst in five decades. A government agency has estimated the economic cost of the disaster at 1.3 trillion rupiah ($96 million), or about a fifth of the South Kalimantan government’s annual budget. Activists attributed the scale of the flooding to the widespread degradation of the watershed of the Barito and other rivers, with much of the area cleared for mining and oil palm concessions. But the government initially pushed back, with the environment minister calling this “misinformation” fed by “invalid data deliberately pushed by some parties.” Now, however, the government says it has identified large areas of degraded land that encompass coal-mining concessions and illegal mines. It says these areas need to be rehabilitated in a bid to mitigate future floods. “We know exactly the size of concessions and how much of them have been degraded,” M.S. Karliansyah, the environment ministry’s head of environmental degradation mitigation and control, said in a recent online press conference. “Therefore, we will immediately ask for these reclamation…This article was originally published on Mongabay Läs mer