August 20, 2018

Illegal Leuser Ecosystem destruction traced back

( - Indonesian Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya, as recently reported by (Aug 14), has warned that the misuse of legally-established  high conservation value (HCV) areas for palm oil expansion is very easy to trace back using time-series satellite data. 

As an example, the minister pointed to a case of the misuse of legally-established HCV areas by PT Surya Panen Subur (SPS-2), a palm oil concession situated in the Tripa peat swamps on Aceh’s west coast which forms part of the Leuser Ecosystem.

PT SPS-2 (Amara Group), an associate company of the Indonesian-listed company PT Saratoga Investama Sedaya Tbk (SRTG), began to misuse the legally-established HCV areas in its concession from around mid-June 2011.

Using time-series data from 2011-2013, USGS Landsat 7 and 8 images were able to trace back how the Saratoga-associated company destroyed peatlands in HCV areas which were legally established as such in the company’s own approved environmental impact assessment document (pink areas within the red line).

This time-series evidence highlights the fact that significant parts of these legally-established HCV areas in a section of the Leuser Ecosystem were illegally destroyed by the Saratoga-associated company.

Furthermore, the development of illegal palm oil plantations in legally-established HCV areas by PT SPS-2 can also be traced back to the period from 2008-2015, as depicted in the following Google Earth images.

The misuse of legally-established HCV areas by PT SPS-2 represents a clear violation of the two decrees issued by the Regent of Nagan Raya and Governor of Aceh in 2009 and 2012 respectively.

This situation sheds light on the brutality of the Saratoga-associated company’s operations in wiping out major parts of its legally-established HCV areas purely for business interests. 

The illegal destruction of legally-established HCV areas by the Saratoga-associated company to make way for palm oil plantations, as traced back by the time-series data, has unfortunately led to the disappearance of some of the habitat of the critically-endangered Sumatran orangutan in the Leuser Ecosystem.

Despite its proven involvement in the eradication of legally-established HCV areas, a number of RSPO / TFT members, such as NestleADM Global, MarsWilmar and GAR, still continue to source palm oil from the Saratoga-associated company.

Similarly, Unilever and PepsiCo, which are members of only the RSPO, are also still buying from the Leuser Ecosystem destroying company.