Peat agency LiDAR mapping covers US company concession

(foresthints.news) - PT Hindoli, a palm oil concession owned by giant US agribusiness Cargill, now forms part of the area covered by detailed LiDAR mapping performed by the Indonesian Peat Restoration Agency (BRG) in a peat hydrological unit (KHG), which is located in parts of South Sumatra’s Musi Banyuasin and Banyuasin regencies.

Based on the peat agency’s spatial data, only around 265 hectares of the Cargill company concession were afflicted by 2015’s massive peat fires. Despite this, almost the entire concession belonging to the largest US privately held palm oil company has been mapped in detail by the peat agency using LiDAR technology.

Even more strangely, significant parts of the Cargill palm oil concession are not included in the peat agency’s indicative targeted peat restoration map.

The following Google Earth images (4/14/2016) show examples of the Cargill palm oil concession not made up of burned areas from 2015, which are also not included in the peat agency’s indicative targeted peat restoration areas.

“The peat agency needs to explain to the public why the Cargill concession is part of its LiDAR mapping, whereas APP-controlled concessions which were extensively burned in 2015 have not been prioritized,” said Hadi Jatmiko, Executive Director of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (WALHI) in South Sumatra, in response to a question from foresthints.news concerning the situation (Sep 17).

As previously reported by foresthints.news (Jun 17), the peat agency has not carried out LiDAR mapping on even a single hectare of any of paper giant APP's pulpwood concessions that were seriously burned by 2015's peat fires in South Sumatra's two peat restoration priority regencies.

The reason given for this by the peat agency - as reported by foresthints.news (Jun 22) - is that these APP-controlled concessions have already been LiDAR mapped by APP itself, one of the world's largest pulp and paper producers, so there is no need for LiDAR mapping to be done again in the same areas.

It should be noted, however, that APP's LiDAR mapping, which uses a sampling approach, was conducted prior to 2015's peat fires. Furthermore, this mapping did not involve oversight from government authorities.

“Any LiDAR mapping conducted by a company without the supervision of government authorities is vulnerable to manipulation. The peat agency needs to pay attention to this,” Hadi cautioned.

Transparency demanded

Considering that the majority of peat areas targeted for peat restoration are situated in palm oil and pulpwood concessions under the control of extremely wealthy conglomerates, including Cargill, it is very affordable for them - not to mention convenient - to perform LiDAR mapping in their own concessions.

The parts of the Cargill palm oil concession covered by the peat agency’s LiDAR mapping were not affected by 2015’s peat fires and were also not included in the agency’s indicative targeted peat restoration map, as depicted in the Google Earth images below (4/14/2016).

WALHI’s South Sumatra Executive Director made this demand of the peat agency. “The LiDAR data obtained by the peat agency to be disclosed, among other reasons, to know exactly which concessions have been covered by LiDAR mapping and what the findings were, both for peat restoration effort and monitoring purposes.

The peat agency recently submitted detailed data derived from its LiDAR mapping results to the Ministry of the Environment and Forestry (Aug 24).

However, not one forestry concession was incorporated in the detailed LiDAR mapping, thereby rendering the data completely useless for improving peat governance in forestry concessions, especially those in the pulp and paper sector.