February 13, 2019

APP ecosystem restoration concession being canalized

(foresthints.news) - New canals are being developed in an expanse of peat ecosystem in PT Karawang Ekawana Nugraha (KEN), a forestry concession for ecosystem restoration belonging to Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) which lies in South Sumatra’s OKI regency.

Satellite data shows that development of the new canals, which are splitting the peat ecosystem in the APP-owned ecosystem restoration concession, started at the beginning of December 2018 and was still underway in early February this year.

A ground-check conducted by the foresthints.news team (Feb 11) demonstrated how these canals continue to be built in the APP ecosystem restoration concession which forms part of the home range of the Sumatran elephant

The photos below, in which an excavator is seen at work digging new canals in the APP ecosystem restoration concession, constitute undeniable evidence of the ongoing canal development.

The operations in the APP concession are clearly unusual given that the concession is an ecosystem restoration concession, on top of the fact that new peat drainage practices in peat ecosystem have been legally banned since early December 2016.

According to Indonesian Environment and Forestry Ministry data (2017), the continuing development of new canals in the APP ecosystem restoration concession is taking place in 2015’s burned peat ecosystem. 

The following photos depict the extent of new canals built in the APP ecosystem restoration concession which makes up part of the Sumatran elephant’s home range, specifically in 2015’s burned peat ecosystem, a practice still happening as documented on the ground by  foresthints.news (Feb 11).

This case represents a lesson learned, with the APP company’s actions both legally and technically questionable considering that an ecosystem restoration concession is supposed to be restored, not fragmented by new canals.

APP’s reaction

After being informed about the new canal development practices in the APP ecosystem restoration concession (Feb 12), APP asserted that the canals in question are old canals that have been in existence since 2007, long before the launch of its Forest Conservation Policy in early February 2013.

However, when told that an excavator is currently operating to carve out new canals, as proven by the ground-check performed by foresthints.news, APP stated that it will check on this with its operational team. 

APP then explained that the ongoing canal development in its ecosystem restoration concession is being done by a local community group of Suka Mulya village. Asked whether this practice has been approved by APP, the pulp and paper giant again asked for some time to respond.  

The photos below depict part of the massive new canals in the PT KEN concession. APP claims that these new canals were developed by a local community group initiative at its own expense, and the pulp giant is powerless to stop this peat drainage in its ecosystem restoration concession.

In a further response by email (Feb 13), APP claimed that the local community group is insisting on continuing to build new canals to serve as a border for a community-company collaboration block in part of the concession area.

Meanwhile, APP, according to its statement, has suggested that this border could be adequately made using stakes. APP claims, however, that the local community group brought in heavy machinery directly and began new canal development activities on the ground.

Regardless of APP’s statement, this collaboration block in the ecosystem restoration concession forms part of the APP company’s operational plan for the planting of Pulai and Jelutung trees, a type of wetland plant species.

However, going back to early November 2015, Indonesian Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya publicly explained that Pulai and Jelutung are among the types of trees suitable for planting in peatlands without the need for the development of new canals. 

APP also wrote that it finds itself in a difficult position when it comes to ending the ongoing canal development, seeing that it remains in a partnership process with the local community group and is concerned about causing new conflict. 

Whatever the excuses and stories given by APP, the ongoing new canal development in the peat ecosystem, which is destroying its ecosystem restoration concession, completely contravenes the implementation of APP’s Forest Conservation Policy which has entered its seventh year.