Caught red-handed, APP company orders an end to burned peat replanting

(foresthints.news) - After carrying out the symbolic removal of newly-replanted acacia in 2015’s burned peatlands at two locations in the concession of PT BAP, a company belonging to the Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) group, the two director generals of the Ministry of the Environment and Forestry charged with the removal of the acacia also learned first-hand of the ongoing exploitation of burned peat areas for the development of pulpwood plantations.

When this important finding was uncovered, a top executive of PT BAP who was present at the scene immediately ordered his team to stop the development of the burned peat. This instruction was witnessed by the two director generals concerned.

This is the final news report by foresthints.news shedding light on the on-the-ground findings revealed by the inspections undertaken by the ministry at PT BAP in the regency of Ogan Komering Ilir (OKI), in the province of South Sumatra (Feb 9).

The replanting of burned peat has been explicitly outlawed by Indonesian forestry authorities, yet the building of canals in 2015’s burned peat areas - an integral part of the burned peat replanting process - is clearly demonstrated in the following photos.

“It has been proven that our minister’s order to get rid of the newly-replanted acacia from the burned peatlands in the PT BAP concession has not been complied with. On the contrary, this company has continued developing burned peat,” Professor San Afri Awang, one of the ministry’s director generals who performed the inspection, told foresthints.news at the site (Feb 9).

Submission of incorrect data

In October last year, the ministry sent letters to all relevant pulpwood companies, including PT BAP, requesting that they submit spatial data on the distribution of 2015’s burned peatlands in their concessions to be overlaid with the ministry’s own data.

The locations inspected by the ministry officials were not declared to be burned peat areas in the spatial data submitted by PT BAP to the ministry. However, upon inspection, these expansive areas were in fact found to consist of burned peat from 2015’s fires.

Indeed, even the top PT BAP executive present acknowledged that a broad expanse of PT BAP’s concession, as seen in the following photos, comprises peat burned in 2015.

“The ministry data clearly delineates this broad expanse of land to be composed of burned peat from 2015. In other words, the data submitted by PT BAP to the ministry was false,” Professor San Afri decried.

He went on to point out that PT BAP had actually made three mistakes which ultimately would harm the APP company in terms of law enforcement.

Director General San Afri, wearing white during the site inspections, detailed PT BAP’s deceptions. “First of all, PT BAP claimed that it was not replanting burned areas, and this claim has turned out to be false. Secondly, the company failed to obey the two letters from the minister (ordering the removal of newly-replanted acacia). Thirdly, they reported incorrect data on the distribution of 2015’s burned peatlands to the ministry.”

The University of Gajah Mada professor echoed the hardline expressed by President Joko Widodo with respect to a zero-compromise policy on peat violations. “These manipulative practices on the part of PT BAP are being taken very seriously by the ministry, particularly with respect to our objectives from further monitoring and law enforcement.”

Ongoing monitoring

At the same location, Rasio “Roy” Ridho Sani, the Ministry’s Law Enforcement Director General, said: “The ministry is in possession of various instruments of law enforcement which will enhance the compliance of PT BAP’s operations.”

Roy, dressed in all black, asserted that the implementation of the order from the top PT BAP executive - requesting his team to stop the replanting of burned peat - will be subject to ongoing monitoring by the ministry.

“In the interests of law enforcement and the prevention of further peat fires at PT BAP, we will conduct continuous monitoring. All the findings from these field inspections are definitely going to be followed up,” he affirmed.

PT BAP - as well as another two APP concessions (PT BMH and PT SBAWI) whose locations are adjacent to each other in a single peatland landscape spanning an area in excess of half a million hectares - was the landscape most severely affected by 2015’s peat fires.

The difficulty in extinguishing the peat fires in this landscape in the final months of 2015 was partly because major parts of these three concessions so badly ravaged by the fires are - according to ministry data - made up of drained peat domes.

In early February this year, Environment and Forestry Minister Dr Siti Nurbaya signed the Peatland Ecosystem Map whereby all peatlands that constitute peat domes are to be classified as protection zones, including drained peat domes spread across concession areas.

President Joko Widodo has shown himself to be extremely serious when it comes to ensuring that all peat domes - both those unexploited as well as drained peat domes - are turned into protection zones.