Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Indonesia's forest concessionaires required to restore peatland

According to the Jakarta Post, the Indonesian Peatland Restoration Agency (BRG) will require forest concessionaires to restore 1.4 million hectares of peatland starting in January 2017. The move is set to affect 650,389 hectares managed by 36 forest concessionaires in five provinces, namely South Sumatra, Central Kalimantan, West Kalimantan, Riau and Jambi, BRG head Nazir Foead said. “The areas to be restored are equivalent to 26 percent of the total peatland restoration target,” Nazir said.
Established by President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo to decrease forest fires, the agency has set a goal to recover 2.49 million ha of peatland of which about 1 million ha is located in protected forests, conservation forests and community forests.
During execution, the companies would have to comply with technical guidelines set by the government and install a monitoring censor for water surface with technology developed by the agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology (BPPT), Nazir said. BRG would closely monitor the implementation of the measure, he added.
Indonesia, home to the world’s third-biggest tropical rain forest after the Amazon and the Congo Basin, has dealt with concurrent forest fires in recent years, causing a spread of haze to neighboring Malaysia, Singapore and even Thailand. The fires has been fuelled by pulp and palm oil plantations on dried peat.

Friday, December 30, 2016

The government rejected APRIL proposal on peat

The Environment and Forestry Minister ordered recently APRIL to remove the newly-planted acacia and close any new canals that had been opened in their concession. APRIL however stated that the order was not valid, claiming that removing the planted acacia would disrupt the ecological functions of the peatlands, making them vulnerable to peat fires and encroachment. APRIL also announced that it would not harvest the newly-planted acacia that made up part of its new peat development.
But according to the Director General, APRIL has to accept the legal consequences of the peat violations it has carried out. He explained that the rejection was conveyed by letter in response to the letter sent by the APRIL company to the minister containing the rejected proposals.

The ministry’s recent inspection in a concession belonging to PT RAPP, a subsidiary of APRIL, showed that the company continued to carry out new peat development and new acacia planting in this concession. “The findings of the legal analysis and ground checks performed by the ministry clearly prove that PT RAPP has perpetrated peat violations. As such, of course we rejected the APRIL company’s proposals,” San Afri Awang, the Ministry’s Director General of Forestry Planology and Environmental Governance, told foresthints.news.

“The message of the President is clear, in that there will be no compromises when it comes to perpetrators of peat violations. We at the ministry are carrying this out as best we can” added San Afri Awang.

San Afri went padded that in early December, he observed first-hand the new peat development being undertaken in APRIL’s concession and also witnessed new peat development and newly-planted acacia in some of the Peat Restoration Agency’s targeted peat restoration areas. This is the reason why  the minister annulled the revised APRIL 10-year work plan of the APRIL in October (after the previous plan has been already rejected).

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Greenpeace and WWF disengage from APRIL’s Stakeholder Advisory Committee

Two key stakeholders of APRIL’s Stakeholder Advisory Committee (SAC), Greenpeace and the WWF, have announced that they are suspending their engagement with the committee. The committee has been created to supervise the implementation of APRIL policy. However in the last months, implementation has been extremely slow, while the company has been found in major breaches, especially in the management of peatlands. Furthermore, on these issues the company has also proven little transparence, even towards the committee itself.

"APRIL has repeatedly and consistently misled SAC and its independent peat expert working group regarding the continued construction of canals in its concession areas in Pulau Padang - says a Greenpeace note - "If the company cannot be trusted to provide accurate, clear and trustworthy information regarding its operations then there is simply no point in continuing to engage with it at this time."

Also WWF motivated its disengagement with a public statement: "WWF continues to recommend that companies wait and see before sourcing from and investing in RGE/APRIL and their associated business entities, until there is truly independent third party verification that the RGE/APRIL group has made significant progress in implementation of “Forestry, Fibre, Pulp & Paper Sustainability Framework”, SFMP 2.0 and additional recommendations by NGOs to fill the policies’ gaps to address critical issues, including deforestation, pulping of HCV and HCS areas, peat development and long-standing social issues."

“APRIL’s management is not serious about implementing its own sustainability policy. APRIL is also lacking when it comes to following up on key issues surrounding the policy implementation,” Rusmadya Maharuddin, forest campaigner for Greenpeace Indonesia, told Foresthints.news.

According to the Greenpeace forest campaigner Rusmadya, the peat violations committed by APRIL are clearly unacceptable, considering that not only do these violations contravene APRIL’s own sustainability policy, but they are also not in line with Indonesia’s regulations. “Greenpeace has come to the conclusion that APRIL is not serious about its own sustainability policy at the implementation level. APRIL and its parent company, RGE, cannot be trusted to deliver their own commitments” said Rusmadya to Foresthints.news.

Just like Greenpeace, the WWF considers APRIL's compliance with its own sustainability policy in terms of its operations to be slow and non-transparent, with numerous peatland violations discovered on the ground.

“We are quite suspicious of APRIL because they never divulge complete and transparent information to us. APRIL also still frequently commits peatland violations. On this basis, we have decided to disengage with APRIL,” Aditya Bayunanda, WWF-Indonesia’s Forest Commodity Leader, told Foresthints.news.

He said that the WWF’s presence on APRIL’s SAC was at the request of APRIL’s own management, adding that it should be giving truthful information to the WWF, not vice versa.

“What’s the point of us engaging with APRIL’s SAC if they continue showing a lack of transparency with regard to their operations related to the implementation of APRIL’s sustainability policy?” asked Aditya.

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

The Indonesian government cancelled again APRIL working plan - even after its revision

The Ministry of the Environment and Forestry found that the company was planning to keep expanding pulpwood plantation in the Kampar Peninsula of Sumatra’s Riau province. The plan has been already refused back in October, due to illegal plantation expansion on peat in the Kampar Peninsula landscape. The ministry also carried out a ground inspection, discovering that business-as-usual practices have taken place in the concession’s peatlands, including new land clearing and canal development. The Ministry sent a letter to APRIL intimating to restore the plantation being developed, while the acacia that has already been planted and newly-developed canals closed. The Ministry director general San Afri expressed his surprise at these operations by APRIL, considering that the pulp and paper giant is consistently promoting to the international community that its sustainability policy has included no peat development since early June 2015: “It turns out that APRIL is still carrying out business-as-usual practices, which actually violate its very own sustainability commitments. In fact, one of the director generals at the ministry was in attendance on behalf of the minister at the event at which APRIL launched its no peat development policy.” “The new pulpwood plantation being developed must be restored. This is the responsibility of the company. A letter to this effect will be sent tomorrow to the owner of APRIL,” San Afri Awang, Chairman of Peat Restoration Monitoring at the ministry, said to Foresthints.news. Furthermore, he added, acacia that has already been planted in the new pulpwood plantation must be

Monday, December 05, 2016

Indonesia President signs revised peat regulation

President Joko Widodo has signed a revised government regulation clarifying the Indonesian government’s level of commitment in providing protection and management of peatland ecosystems. large areas of pulp  plantations, alongside with palm oil plantations, has been established on peat soil, by draining peat and planting acacia. Drained peat release huge amounts of greenhouse gas (up to 80 tons/year/ha), provide the fuel for extensive fires, and in the long term lead to soil subsidence and seasonal flooding. To date, all pulp wood concessions are managed in a way that keep eroding the peat. Even the methodology based on zoning and controlling water level are not able to prevent the erosion. The revised regulation is aimed to address this situation.

The new peat regulation is ultimately includes:
  • A permanent moratorium on the exploitation of peatlands, except in designated paludiculture zones with specific types of peatland vegetation (not on drained peat).
  • No new canals.
  • Aside of the ban of  burning of peatlands, also tolerating the burning is illegal (companies have full responsibility on the concession)
  • Restoration of burned peatlands should start  within 30 days, or the land will be taken over by the State (and restoration expenses charged to the companies).
  • The government will provide criteria to measure and to enforce the regulation requiring to keep water table at no more than 0.4 meters below the peat surface (a condition that most of pulp plantation are not fulfilling).
  • The central government will keep the control over peat management, overlying local administrations.
With these measures, the government claims to put an end to the business-as-usual practices on peat management, as stated by the Indonesia’s Environment and Forestry Minister Dr Siti Nurbaya in a recent interview with Foresthints.news.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Indonesian civil society writes to Banks: APRIL failing to implement its own policy

The environmental coalition Jikalahari and the network of local communities of Riau province, JMGR, have sent two letters to banks, one each to Credit Suisse and ABN Amro, to share some concerns over what is happening on the ground in APRIL’s concessions in the Riau Province (in Sumatra, Indonesia).

Credit Suisse has committed to help its customer APRIL to deliver a visible change in its activities. ABN Amro also has business with APRIL, and last May was involved in a new deal with this company for US$800 million, through a syndicated loan.

According to the local communities, the APRIL group and its subsidiary PT RAPP has been so far unable to implement its own policy, to comply with regulations in Indonesia regarding peat protection and peat management or to implement regulations regarding setting aside areas for local communities’ livelihood trees.

APRIL subsidiaries illegally keep building canals, planting in burned peatlands that should be restored, and even forbidding official inspection teams to visit their concessions. Social conflicts with local communities are not being addressed, as the company promised they would be, and its agreements are violated by the plantation companies.

Furthermore, business-as-usual peat management is draining large areas of peatlands in the Kampar peninsula, releasing huge amounts of CO2 every year and creating risks of new waves of fires. Last year’s peat fires caused the death of 5 Riau residents; 3 of which were children, and more than 87,000 people suffered from respiratory diseases, while the county suffered $935m of damage. Six APRIL subsidiaries have been investigated by the Police Department in relation with the fires, but still the company has failed to stop draining peat. This practice will also cause soil subsidence, leading to extensive flooding in the rainy season, while the dry season is affected by fires.

The civil society groups have asked the banks to make sure that their clients will be able to prove full compliance with laws and regulations, to promptly address social conflicts and to stop draining peat.

The letter_to Credit Suisse
The letter to ABN Amro

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

APRIL supplier fined for illegal logging

A timber supplier of APRIL in Riau was fined by Supreme Court in August trial to pay compensation amount to 16.2 trillion (US$1.19 billion) for illegal logging and environmental destruction occurred during 2004-2006 in Pelalawan district, Riau province. PT Merbau Pelalawan Lestari, an APRIL timber supplier since 2003, was found guilty conducting illegal logging of 5,590 hectares and environmental destruction of 1,873 hectares of its concession.
Report from Supreme Court website last week that quoted by media said that PT Merbau Pelalawan Lestari, an APRIL timber supplier since 2003, was found guilty conducting illegal logging of 5,590 hectares and environmental destruction of 1,873 hectares of its concession.
The losses calculated by the Ministry of Environment and Forestry that MPL should pay are Rp 12 trillion and Rp 4 trillion from the two plots deforested respectively (cnnindonesia.com, 18 Nov). It is the biggest fine that a company must pay to the government in forestry related court in the country.
The court ruling concluded that MPL breached the law by clearing forest outside its timber plantation license (IUPHHJ-HT) that released by Pelalawan District Head in 2002. The APRlL timber supplier had cleared 7,466 hectares based on its annual work plan in 2004, 2005, and 2006.
The judges ordered PT MPL to pay compensation to the Ministry of Environment and Forestry. The company was tried first in 2008 by Pekanbaru District Court when they won. At Pekanbaru High Court in 2014, the company also won the lawsuit.

Bambang Hendroyono, Secretary General of Ministry of Environment and Forestry told media last week that the fine would be allocated for Riau forest restoration as well as the State loss caused by the illegal logging (cnnindonesia.com, 17 Nov).

Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) hailed the decision of Supreme Court. Laode Muhammad Syarif, deputy chairman, said it was the court ruling was a great decision. “MA [Supreme Court] court ruling against PT Merbau Pelalawan Lestari is an impressive jurisprudence. If environmental [case] can implement it, there should be corruption case can do too,” he said as quoted as saying by cnnindonesia.com (18 Nov).

PT MPL is one of 14 timber companies in Riau that their cases closed by the Riau Police in 2008. They are affiliated to two pulp giants, APP and APRIL. PT MPL is also related to corruption cases that jailed Pelalawan District Head Azmun Jaafar and Riau Governor Rusli Zainal.
Woro Supartinah, coordinator of Jikalahari, said that APRIL should be responsible to for MPL penalty whether to pay compensation or other actions due to the giant company received illegal logging timber from MPL’s operation. “From moral and ethical perspectives, APRIL should tell its customers and public honestly that they have produced pulp and paper from illegal logging sources,” she said. “Not by denying their affiliation as they announced reactively to the court ruling.”
In a press statement APRIL said it stopped sourcing fiber from PT MPL since February 2005. APRIL also denied that MPL was not its affiliate.