September 17, 2018

‘Powerful’ company engaged in non-stop peat drainage

JAKARTA( - PT TBLA Tbk, an Indonesian-listed company, has been relentlessly draining peat areas for almost three years in South Sumatra’s OKI regency, one of the peat restoration priority regencies designated by President Joko Widodo in early January 2016.

According to Chain Reaction Research, among the main buyers of the palm oil produced by TBLA are Nestlé, Louis Dreyfus, Musim Mas, Wilmar, GAR, ADM, and Asian Agri / Apical

Furthermore, TBLA is also found in the lists of suppliers made public by Unilever, Mars and PepsiCo, meaning that these major players also continue to source palm oil from a company engaged in the ceaseless destruction of peatlands.

The following Planet Explorer images, which were analyzed by the spatial team, show the extent to which the TBLA company (PT DGS), whose permit was granted in 2012, has been carrying out non-stop peat drainage for its palm oil expansion. 

This case highlights how the global palm oil players mentioned above fail to disincentivize peat destruction practices, in this instance committed on an ongoing basis by TBLA to make way for new palm oil plantations.

Powerful company?

In fact, there has been a ban in place on new peat development ever since early November 2015 when Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya issued a circular letter to this effect following that year’s devastating peat fires. 

However, TBLA has apparently chosen to disregard the ban, instead developing the burned peatlands lying in its concessions.

Subsequently, in September 2016, Indonesian Peat Restoration Agency Chief Nazir Foead released the indicative targeted peat restoration map which incorporates part of TBLA’s concessions. This too has been unable to stop the listed company from continuing to drain the peatlands in these concessions.

Actions were taken by the Environment and Forestry Ministry in the last months of 2016 to end TBLA's peat violations, but these did not make the listed company change course by stopping peat drainage.

Moreover, TBLA’s incessant draining of peat areas also indicates that the company has seemingly dismissed the revision of a government regulation signed by President Joko Widodo in early December 2016, banning peat drainage as this practice causes peatlands to dry up.  

Not even the issuance by Minister Siti Nurbaya of a set of new peat regulations, including a peat ecosystem map, in late February 2017 has been enough to prompt TBLA to stop developing its concessions’ peatlands. 

This situation demonstrates just how powerful TBLA considers itself to be, seeing that it has brazenly continued to operate without complying with existing peat regulations, constantly draining peatlands some of which fall within a peat protection zone.

Unstoppable new peat drainage?

In addition to the peat drainage in the concession block depicted in the satellite images above, TBLA has also been draining peat areas in another of its concession blocks (also part of PT DGS) located quite nearby.

Major parts of this TBLA-controlled concession block have yet to be developed, as seen in the Planet Explorer images below, despite the fact that the company continues to drain its peatlands until today.

What this case undeniably confirms is that the aforementioned global palm oil players have been unable to clean up their supply chains from peat destruction practices, specifically those perpetrated by TBLA.

As long as The Forest Trust (TFT) continues to view the association of global palm oil supply chains with new peat drainage as a ‘journey’, it will be no surprise that the top companies which make up its membership remain tied to such harmful practices. 

This issue doesn’t only pertain to TFT members; prominent RSPO members also retain supply chains linked to companies such as TBLA which show no sign of ending the draining of their peatlands. 

This situation sheds light on the power possessed by companies like TBLA, which has been tainting global supply chains for nearly three years, encouraged by a lack of effective intervention from any of its palm oil buyers.