Fires hit Leuser Ecosystem’s Tripa peat swamp

(foresthints.news) - The results of spatial and on-the-ground monitoring carried out by the Indonesian Ministry of the Environment and Forestry indicate that intentional fires have been set, seemingly involving local communities, in a palm oil concession located in the Leuser Ecosystem’s Tripa peat swamp forests.

Environment and Forestry Minister Dr Siti Nurbaya acted on this finding straight away, immediately ordering her law enforcement team to the location after being presented with the on-the-ground monitoring results (Jun 7) at the ministry building in Jakarta.

This presentation was also attended by Greenomics - a research-based Indonesian NGO - which had taken part in the monitoring on a voluntary basis.

The following photos back up the results of the on-the-ground monitoring, depicting peat fires in the palm oil concession belonging to PT CA, which is situated in part of the Leuser Ecosystem’s Tripa peat swamp forests.

After coordinating with the ministry’s local offices, the law enforcement team arrived at PT CA’s site (Jun 9).

“At the location, the ministry team is taking appropriate law enforcement measures, including asking PT CA for clarification about the peat fires in its concession for the development of new palm oil plantations,” Minister Siti Nurbaya explained to foresthints.news (Jun 10).

The minister added that the ministry team is also investigating the degree of community involvement in the peat fires in the palm oil concession, considering the finding of the excavator working on building new canals for the purpose of developing new palm oil plantations.

The presence of an excavator constructing new canals was also documented in the concession.

The photos below show the Ministry’s law enforcement team at the location. In addition to taking law enforcement action, the team is coordinating with the relevant local agencies in a bid to extinguish the peat fires, while also having dialogues with those local communities linked to the peat fires.

In April last year, Minister Siti Nurbaya and local Acehnese leaders expressed a joint commitment to preserving the Leuser Ecosystem’s peatlands and forests by declaring a moratorium on the expansion of palm oil and mining development in this unique area.

Nonetheless, since this declaration was made, a series of serious violations have been committed by palm oil companies with links to the supply chains of giant palm oil corporations, most notably Wilmar.

Legally explicit prohibition

The Indonesian government - as reaffirmed in a circular letter signed by the Environment and Forestry Minister - imposed a complete prohibition on new peat development in early November 2015. This ban was aimed at forestry and plantation companies.

The ban was further reinforced when President Joko Widodo put his signature to a revised government regulation on peat management and protection in early December last year, forbidding all parties from performing land-clearing in peatlands, including for the development of new canals.

Despite the even stricter revised government regulation, the ministry has still caught a number of forestry and palm oil companies operating in Sumatra and Indonesian Borneo red-handed perpetrating peat violations.

The President has stated firmly that any company proven to have committed peat violations by deliberately using fires in its operations does not need to be cautioned again. Instead, the company will have its permit revoked immediately.

Minister Siti Nurbaya concluded with an explicit warning: “If PT CA is proven to have been involved in peat fires this year, this palm oil concession faces the threat of having its permit revoked in line with the President’s public promise delivered at the end of January this year.”