Violations in Tripa peat protection zone uncovered

(foresthints.news) - The Tripa peatlands form the most expansive habitat in the Leuser Ecosystem for the Sumatran orangutan. A section of these peatlands measuring over 11,000 hectares was designated by the Aceh Spatial Plan in December 2013 as a peat protection zone.

However, time series data-based spatial observation conducted by foresthints.news shows that months after it had been designated as a protection zone, this section of forested peatlands - the majority of which is located in palm oil concessions belonging to PT SPS-2 - was cleared, burned and drained.

This state of affairs is clearly visible through Google Earth images taken on February 12, 2014 and August 7, 2015.

To confirm the situation on the ground in the section of the Tripa peat protection zone, foresthints.news recently performed field observations in the area on August 8-9, 2016, which included documenting its findings by video.

The facts on the ground demonstrate that the forested peatlands incorporated into the protection zone of the Tripa peatlands had indeed been burned, drained and developed for palm oil plantations.

President’s state of the nation address

President Joko Widodo has repeatedly reaffirmed his commitment to protecting all Indonesia’s peatlands. This equates to no more peat fires, no more peat clearance and no more peat drainage, including in the all of the Tripa peatlands, not just the part already designated as a protection zone.

"No more peatlands are allowed to be cleared, burned or drained, whether in legally protected areas or not. This was the clear message conveyed by President Jokowi in his state of the nation address (Aug 16) and illustrates his commitment to conserving peatlands and preventing peat fires," Siti Nurbaya, Indonesia's Environment and Forestry Minister, told foresthints.news on Wednesday (Aug 17) in a written statement.

The minister also highlighted the following part of the President’s address: 'The government will show no tolerance to any perpetrators of peatland or forest burning as these actions constitute a crime against humanity.'

"In line with the President’s state of the nation address, we are going to announce the names of companies if found irresponsible and negligent in failing to prevent forest and peat fires this year in their concession areas as perpetrators of crimes against humanity,” the minister promised.

If the corporate sector wants to avoid such an announcement taking place, the minister continued, they must show themselves to be really serious about preventing forest and peat fires. “There is no way we are going to compromise on this. This message was clearly stated in the President’s state of the nation address.”

Corporate sector's responsibility for supply chains

It is by no means excessive for companies such as Golden Agri-Resources (GAR) and Wilmar International - both of which are based in Singapore - as well as other palm oil business groups whose supply chains are linked to the Tripa peatlands to allocate their resources for supporting the protection and restoration of the section of the Tripa peatlands designated by the Aceh Spatial Plan as a peat protection zone.

In fact, it is incumbent upon these palm oil giants, as buyers of CPO from mills which source their fresh fruit bunches from palm oil plantations in the Tripa peatlands, to match the commitment of President Jokowi, as reiterated in his state of the nation address.

These companies must also display corporate responsibility in ensuring that no more peat clearance and drainage, and especially no more peat fires, take place in the Tripa peatlands.