June 21, 2018

Govt approves company’s new work plan, peat forest draining stopped

JAKARTA ( - Early last month (May 7), Indonesian Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya approved the new 10-year work plan of a pulpwood concession covering the equivalent of 13,000 football fields which still contains significant peat forests. The concession concerned, held by PT Muara Sungai Landak (MSL), lies in West Kalimantan’s Mempawah regency. 

In late February last year, almost this entire pulpwood concession - whose peat forests are home to the critically-endangered Bornean orangutan - was designated as part of a peat protection zone by the minister.

Prior to this, in early December 2016, President Joko Widodo issued a ban on all new development in peat ecosystems which inevitably involves the draining of peatland. This practice leads to a susceptibility to peat fires which can be difficult to extinguish, as was the case in 2015.

The President’s ban, along with the subsequent approval of the company’s work plan, mean that the roughly three-quarters of the pulpwood concession still composed of standing peat forests is not legally permitted to be cleared and drained any further to make way for pulpwood plantations - as was pointed out by the Ministry’s Secretary General Bambang Hendroyono. 

“The still predominant peat forests spread within the peat protection zone in PT MSL’s concession which have not yet been developed, may in fact no longer be developed into new acacia plantations,” Bambang explained to during a recent discussion at the ministry building. 

The photos below depict the still undeveloped peat forests. These forests, and the orangutan living among them, are protected by the President’s ban on the clearing and draining of peatlands for the expansion of acacia plantations, reinforced by the approval of PT MSL’s new work plan. 

The Secretary General added that a small section of the standing peat forests included in a cultivation zone was also not allowed to be developed and has now been incorporated into the peat protection zone. 

The following video shows the approximately one quarter of the PT MSL concession that had already been converted into an acacia plantation before the concession was designated as a peat protection zone. This establishment of the peat protection zone ensures that the peat forests distributed over the other three quarters of the concession, so key to the survival of the Bornean orangutan, remain standing.

In the middle of last month (May 16), Greenpeace announced by press release that it was ending all of its engagements with APP / Sinarmas, partly because of new peat forest clearing undertaken by PT MSL, which Greenpeace alleged is owned to a certain extent by Sinarmas Forestry. APP denied the substance of the Greenpeace press release on the very same day.

After looking into the matter and based on the legal supply chain data provided by Greenomics reported (Jun 4) that the mixed tropical hardwood (MTH) derived from the clearing of peat forests in the PT MSL concession had not made its way into APP’s mills in Sumatra.  

Legal evidence from second pulpwood company  

In addition to its allegations about PT MSL, Greenpeace also revealed that deforestation had been carried out in a non-peat ecosystem by PT Hutan Rindang Banua (HRB), a pulpwood concession also said to have ownership links with Sinarmas Forestry. 

The PT HRB pulpwood concession spans two regencies in South Kalimantan covering an area equivalent to 265 thousand football fields. A recently-published report by a coalition of CSOs explains in detail the ownership ties between the pulpwood company and shareholders legally linked to the APP / Sinarmas group-owned companies.  

Nonetheless, the legal supply chain data recently presented by Greenomics also demonstrates that there was no flow of MTH from the deforestation that occurred in the PT HRB concession into APP’s mills from 2013-2017. Instead, this MTH was supplied to a PT HRB-owned wood processing industry located in South Kalimantan’s Tanah Bumbu regency, at a volume of 5 thousand cubic meters. 

Meanwhile, the acacia fiber originating from the PT HRB concession was almost wholly supplied to PT Tanjungenim Lestari Pulp and Paper (TEL), with no flow to APP’s mills in a legal sense. 

“As such, the legal supply chain data reported by PT HRB to the ministry indicates that there was no flow of either natural forest or acacia fiber from 2013-2017 into APP’s mills in Sumatra,” Vanda Mutia Dewi, Greenomics Executive Director, asserted.