APRIL keeps option of plantation development in peatlands on the table

(foresthints.news) - Through its Independent Peat Expert Working Group (IPEWG), which is composed of national and international experts, paper giant APRIL has announced that it is keeping the option of pulpwood plantation development in non-forested peatlands open.

The IPEWG, as explained on APRIL Dialog, is tasked with giving recommendations to APRIL, among which pertain to the option for plantation development in non-forested peatlands.

In October last year, the revised 10-year work plan of APRIL company PT RAPP was annulled by the Indonesian Ministry of the Environment and Forestry as the plan encompassed new peat development.

The ministry did not stop there, going on to conduct on-the-ground investigations in late November last year which uncovered that the APRIL company was still carrying out new pulpwood development involving forested and non-forested peatlands in Sumatra’s Riau Kampar Peninsula landscape.

On the basis of this finding, the APRIL company had sanctions imposed on it by the ministry in early March this year, compelling it to close all the canals that had been developed and remove all the acacia that had been planted in these newly-developed peat areas.

With respect to the sanctions imposed on it, the APRIL company later submitted a progress report to the ministry stating that some of the acacia planted in the newly-developed peat areas had already been removed.

The following are photos of the peat violations committed by PT RAPP which led to the Singapore-based company being hit with sanctions.

The ministry placed a ban on new peat development in early November 2015 thus meaning that the actions of the APRIL company, as revealed by the investigations, constituted peat violations.

New development equals new violations

In early December last year, President Joko Widodo signed a revised government regulation on peat protection which prohibits new peat development involving forested and non-forested peatlands without distinction.

Then in February this year, the Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya also issued a set of ministerial peat regulations to serve as the implementing guidelines of the previously-issued revised government regulation.

Asked his view on APRIL keeping open the possibility for new pulpwood plantation in non-forested peatlands, Indonesian Peat Restoration Agency Chief Nazir Foead responded in writing (Apr 28) by referring to the revised government regulation.

“New development in peatlands - in this case a new acacia plantation - regardless of whether forested or non-forested, is no longer allowed, especially since the release of the recently-revised government regulation,” Nazir wrote.

As it turns out, APRIL’s sustainability policy, which only declares that there will be “no peat development in forested peatlands” (thereby implicitly retaining the option for pulpwood plantation development in non-forested peatlands), conflicts with the new Indonesian peat regulations.

Therefore, in a legal sense, if APRIL carries out new pulpwood plantation development, even in non-forested peatlands, it is quite clearly in violation of the new peat regulations.

As previously reported by foresthints.news (Apr 21), the Director General of Law Enforcement at the Environment and Forestry Ministry, Dr Rasio "Roy" Ridho Sani, exhorted corporate giants like APRIL to take the role as leaders in business transformation with regard to peat protection by not getting involved in peat violations.

Any reluctance on the part of APRIL to revise its sustainability policy - by retaining the option for new pulpwood plantation development in non-forested peatlands - is thus tantamount to it keeping open the option for perpetrating new peat violations.