Pulp giant replanting burned peat must face full force of law, urges frontline alliance

JAKARTA(foresthints.news) - Rather than taking responsibility for restoring vast areas of peatland burned in last year’s extensive fires, Asia Pulp and Paper (APP)’s pulpwood companies have instead turned these burned peatlands into an arena for the replanting of acacia.

This practice is especially prevalent in Sumatra’s Riau province, one of seven peat restoration priority provinces. The province is home to Riau’s Forest Rescue Alliance, also known as Jikalahari, a frontline alliance that continuously and consistently advocates strongly for saving and conserving the region’s forests and peatlands.

“We really hope that the APP companies exploiting last year’s burned peatlands face the full force of the law, both administrative and civil as well as criminal,” Chairwoman of the alliance, Woro Supartinah, told foresthints.news (Dec 21).

Woro took the opportunity to focus on the replanting of acacia which has been taking place in APP concessions. “The legal prohibition of this is clear. As such, APP must remove all the acacia they have replanted in last year’s burned peatlands,” she demanded.

She asked the Environment and Forestry Minister to do something along the lines of what she did in South Sumatra province, where three APP companies were recently ordered to get rid of all the acacia replanted in last year’s burned peatlands.

In fact, this isn’t the minister’s only bold move towards ensuring proper law enforcement in the country’s peatlands. The minister also previously sealed off the operations of a major palm oil company operating in South Sumatra province that had illegally planted new palm oil in last year’s burned peatlands.

These photos, which derive from the ministry’s monitoring in Riau province, show just how burned peatlands are misused by the pulp giant APP (PT SPM).

Acacia removal insufficient

The forest rescue alliance has appealed to both the Environment and Forestry Ministry and Peat Restoration Agency not only to ensure that the APP companies concerned remove all the acacia replanted in last year’s burned peatlands, but also that the burned peatlands spread across APP’s supply chains in Riau province are restored.

“APP must not merely pull out all the acacia replanted in last year’s burned peatlands. It must also restore the burned peatlands it has misused,” Woro insisted.

The ministry’s monitoring findings led to the conclusion that no peat restoration efforts at all have been undertaken across APP’s supply chains this year.

On the contrary, several APP companies were actually found to be replanting acacia in last year’s burned peatlands, and even doing the same thing in drained peat domes following the harvesting of acacia.

In reality, not a single hectare of burned peatlands located in concession areas has been restored this year. This contrasts sharply with the President’s eagerness to bring about a change in fortune for the country’s peatlands.

President Joko Widodo has firmly committed to protecting and restoring Indonesia’s peatlands. In addition to forming the peat agency to accelerate the restoration of peatlands in the wake of last year’s damaging peat fires, the President has also imposed a permanent moratorium on peatland exploitation.