Saturday, July 30, 2016

Peat: a new paper rejects APRIL claims that drainage of peatlands for plantations can be sustainable

A new policy brief by Wetlands International and Tropenbos International calls for a thorough science-based approach, instead of some of the currently widely applied policies and management models, which have insufficiently considered the issue of peatland subsidence. In 2015 Indonesia was hit by a disastrous haze event caused by extensive peatland fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan. In response, the Indonesian government launched a national Peatland Restoration Agency (BRG) with an ambitious target of restoring over 2 million hectares of peatlands by 2020. Success will depend on a proper understanding of the functioning of peatlands.
While the Indonesian government is currently taking bold steps towards large scale peatland restoration to prevent major fires, including rewetting of priority peatland areas, some key players in the pulp for paper and other plantation industry claim that peatlands can be drained sustainably and thus contribute to the government’s goals. It is the case of the so-called “eko-hidro” approach, a peatland management model developed by Asia Pacific Resources International Limited (APRIL), a large pulp-for-paper company with major assets on Indonesian peatlands. The model is claimed to provide a sustainable form of drainage-based peatland management. It is applied in the Kampar Peninsula, where APRIL holds major plantations.
The paper published by Wetlands International and Tropenbos International argues that the “eko-hidro” approach is not successful in mitigating the adverse effects of drainage. This is based on a review of studies in peatlands in Indonesia and other parts of the world. It concurs with the findings, a decade ago, of the Kampar Peninsula Science Based Management Support Project, led by the science institute Deltares, which already pointed to the inevitable negative long-term impacts of peatland drainage. At that time it already showed no significant difference in subsidence rates between “business as usual” and “eko-hidro” approaches.
Peat consists of 90% water and 10% organic material that is mostly carbon. Continuously high water tables have prevented the breakdown of organic material and allowed thick layers of peat to build up over centuries, in many areas in Indonesia. Millions of hectares of peatland in Sumatra and Kalimantan have been drained in order to allow for the development of oil palm and industrial tree plantations. Drainage of peatlands has at least three important consequences with major social and economic effects. First, when drained, the peat oxidizes and carbon is continuously released into the atmosphere as CO2, contributing to climate change. Second, drained peatlands are extremely fire prone, and fires have repeatedly destroyed millions of hectares. Last year, peatland fires destroyed several million hectares, and the haze associated with these fires had devastating impact on the economy of SE Asia and on public health. Lastly, the loss of peat due to oxidation results in subsidence of the peatland which brings the land surface down to sea or river level and eventually leads to frequent or even permanent flooding. Most of the lowland peatlands of Sumatra and Kalimantan have been affected by drainage, and continuation of such drainage-based land-uses – including pulp-for-paper and oil palm plantations in these areas will thus in the long term lead to frequent and prolonged floods during the wet season in many millions of hectares, resulting in the loss of vast areas of productive land. Such land will become high risk areas again for fires in each major dry season.

Monday, June 13, 2016

New report demanding APRIL to stop plantations and start restoration of peat domes

Greenomics Indonesia released a report to demand APRIL to stop plantations and start restoration of peat domes. According to the report, data from the Peat Hydrological Unit of Indonesia’s Environment and Forestry Ministry suggest that 200,000 ha of concessions held by APRIL or its long-term supply partners lies on peat domes. Around a half, 100,000 ha has been already converted into acacia plantations.

During the COP 21 Paris event in December 2015, APRIL announced a USD 100 million peat restoration program, covering an area of some 150,000 hectares. Greenomics demands APRIL to restore the peat domes as quickly as possible, "no matter how extensive the indicative peat domes that have been planted with acacia”.

APRIL and its suppliers now need to do is to designate the acacia plantation blocks that include peat domes as protection zones” says the report. “Of course, this issue does not only involve APRIL's supply chain, but also the supply chains of other business groups, such as Asia Pulp and Paper (APP)”.

Greenomics also suggest APRIL to develop a master plan for the restoration of the peat domes that have been converted into acacia plantations.

In January this year, a group of international and Indonesian NGOs sent a letter to APRIL demanding to phase-out drainage-based plantations on peatlands and to restore hydrological conditions in drained concessions on peatlands (the letter is signed by EPN, RAN, WWF, Wetlands International, Walhi Riau, Canopy, JMGR and Mitra Insani).

Friday, April 15, 2016

Operations of another APRIL supplier suspended over forest fires

Indonesia's Minister of the Environment and Forestry, Siti Nurbaya, has suspended the operations of PT Rimba Lazuardi (RL), one of APRIL’s long-term suppliers located in Sumatra's Riau province, as the company was found to have committed a number of violations with respect to last year’s forest fires. According to the Indonesian web platform, the suspension of the company’s operations took effect from the middle of March 2016.
Based on the ministerial decree suspending the operations of the APRIL supplier, its violations include not exercising control over forest fires in its concession area as well as not exercising control over air pollution originating from the fires.

In addition, Rimba Lazuardi is also said to have failed to perform its waste management obligations in accordance with Indonesia's applicable laws and regulations. This includes not reporting on the implementation of environmental management plans and not paying due regard to environmental functions.

“This is an environmental case. It should be brought into the realm of law enforcement. The government needs to demonstrate that it is taking clear legal steps to deal with incidents of forest fires such as those involving this company,” Riko Kurniawan, Executive Director of Walhi Riau ("Friends of the Earth Indonesia" Riau Office), told on Tuesday (Apr 12).

Riko added that the APRIL's longterm supplier, along with any other companies which had incurred similar administrative sanctions, should additionally be taken to court by the government to obtain legal clarity on their actions.

“For us as a civil society group, and also on behalf of the people of Riau, we would like to see the establishment of legal certainty through a trial process. If an accused company is duly convicted, then it must be severely punished. The Ministry of the Environment and Forestry needs to adopt a clear law enforcement strategy - a strategy which is based on providing legal certainty,” he asserted.

Meanwhile, APRIL reacted to the suspension of PT RL’s operations by declaring that it had been an unauthorized operation: "PT SRL reported to APRIL that the company has filed a report with the police for them to undertake further investigation on this possible unauthorized activity in Rupat concession" report the APRIL web site.
“APRIL’s explanation doesn’t make any sense. Even if a company has its permit suspended, it is not allowed to simply relinquish all responsibility for the control of its concession area. How is it possible that this "unauthorized activity" could take place? It clearly makes no sense at all,” Woro Supartinah, Coordinator of Jikalahari (The Riau Forest Rescue Network), told
Environment and Forestry Ministry  will brequests detailed explanations to APRIL:  “We will be sending a letter to PT SRL requesting a detailed explanation of what is meant by 'unauthorized activity', including an explanation about certain developments stemming from its report to the police,” said Bambang Hendroyono, Secretary General at the Environment and Forestry Ministry to
APRIL added that  PT RL is one of APRIL’s suppliers and not an affiliate or subsidiary of the APRIL Group. Vanda Mutia Dewi, Executive Director of Greenomics Indonesia, reacted to the development by saying that in reality PT RL's operations are controlled by APRIL, so the pulp and paper giant is misleading the public by giving the impression that this company is merely an independent supplier. “APRIL cannot just wash its hands of this issue, as if the company's operations are not under its control. On the contrary, APRIL actually does exercise control over the operations of what it says is just a supplier. APRIL must acknowledge that it is responsible,” Vanda explained to

Vanda pointed out that this was the case not only for PT RL. In fact, the operations of another company which had its license suspended by the ministry in November 2015, PT Sumatera Riang Lestari (SRL), were also under the control of APRIL. “The operations of APRIL-owned concessions, including those of its long-term suppliers, are controlled by the management of APRIL. This is a fact,” said Vanda emphatically.

Monday, April 04, 2016

Major APRIL supplier found in serious breach

According to the forest portal, one of APRIL’s major suppliers, PT SRL, has reportedly violated the Environment and Forestry Minister's decree freezing the license of this pulpwood plantation concession in mid-November 2015 due to its role in last year’s massive peat fires.

The decree prohibited PT SRL from operating until it had met all the obligations demanded of it. In other words, the company would only be allowed to start operating again once another decree had been issued by the minister lifting the license suspension.

“We have already reported this serious violation committed by PT SRL Block IV in Rupat Island, Riau Province, to the Director General of Law Enforcement at the Ministry of the Environment and Forestry,” Vanda Mutia Dewi, Executive Director of Greenomics Indonesia, told on Thursday (Mar 31).

Greenomics used USGS Landsat 8 images, dated 9 January 2016, 26 February 2016 and 13 March 2016 to indicate that acacia planted blocks continued to be harvested by the APRIL supplier during the period of license suspension in its pulpwood plantation concession.

Asked for his view on the matter by 31), the Director General of Law Enforcement at the Ministry, Rasio Ridho Sani, replied, “We need to make a field verification of the report. We’ll see what sanction, what punishment, just what can be done to PT SRL. However, as yet we have not decided on what sanctions will be imposed for this non-compliance.”

The Director General added that the field verification process would be used as the basis for taking legal action against the company.

“We could revoke their license or do something else. However, the main thing is we need to check in the field first,” Rasio said.
In the meantime, APRIL has stated that it has asked the accused supplier to carry out its own field verification. Furthermore, the giant pulp company continues to insist that all its suppliers must comply with APRIL's sustainability policy as well as Indonesia’s laws and regulations.
“We are waiting for the results of the field verification from our supplier,” said Agung Laksamana, APRIL's Director of Corporate Affairs (Apr 1).

Greenomics also said that it has submitted its report on the violations committed by PT SRL to the Chief of the Peat Restoration Agency, Nazir Foead, in consideration of the fact that the company’s concession suspension was due to its involvement in last year's peat fires.
Meanwhile, Greenpeace Indonesia also took exception to the actions of PT SRL. Its spokesperson, Yuyun Indradi, said that by continuing to operate by harvesting acacia planted blocks during the license suspension period, the APRIL supplier was in clear breach of the minister's decree.

"Seeing that the Environment and Forestry Ministry suspended PT SRL's operating license, of course it has to take legal action against the company for its violations,” Yuyun told on Friday (April 1).

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

NGOs send a letter to APRIL on peat management in the Kampar peninsula

A group of NGO sent today a letter to APRIL on peat management in the Kampar Peninsula. APRIL recently  announced apeatland restoration project. However, at the same time, the cmpany is continuing to drain peatlands in the same region, for pulp plantations. The letter reminders to APRIL that science show their peat management system is not avoiding peat draining, with all the consequences of this (CO2 emissions, forest fires, soil subsidizing etc), and that industrial plantations on the peatlands of Kampar Peninsula are environmentally and economically unsustainable and irresponsible. The letter ask APRIL to abandon acacia plantations on peat and develop the use of alternative crops that require no drainage, and manage peatlands in an environmentally and socially way.
The letter is signed by Environmental Paper Network, Wetlands International, World Wildlife Fund, Rainforest Action Network, Canopy, JMGR, Walhi Riau, Scale-up, Yayasan Mitra Insani.

Friday, December 11, 2015

New report: drained plantations on peat in the Kampar Peninsula cannot be sustained

A new Deltares report, commissioned by Wetlands International, reconfirms that pulp wood and oil palm plantations in peatlands cannot be managed sustainably. Such drained plantations will inevitably suffer from severe land subsidence, increasing flooding and eventually production loss. The report also provides evidence that fires only occurred in drained peatlands and therefore inside or near plantations.

Independent science institute Deltares assessed the impacts of peatland drainage for plantations on the Kampar Peninsula peat dome, which probably is the largest single peat dome in Sumatra and Kalimantan, using the latest remote sensing techniques and scientific understanding of lowland peatland response to drainage.


Modelled likely flood extent (HWL) and drainability (FDL) for (right) 2014 and for (left) 50 years after 2014.





Current (2014) extent of Acacia and oil palm plantations on Kampar Peninsula, and 2010 concession boundaries



According to Wetlands International, pulp and paper companies APP and APRIL, which hold the largest concession areas on Kampar Peninsula, need to phase out their drainage-based pulp wood plantations from peatlands and rewet the areas that they drained for their plantations, to avoid floods and large scale loss of land productivity and to curb fires. Sustainable alternatives on rewetted peatlands need to be developed.

At an ASEAN side event during the UNFCCC CoP21 in Paris, Marcel Silvius, Head of Climate-smart Land-use of Wetlands International said: “I am surprised that the peatland subsidence and flooding issue is not considered in the ASEAN Haze Strategy and in national land-use policies and planning in Indonesia and Malaysia. The consequence of millions of hectares of peatlands becoming unproductive will likely increase fire risks in these areas during dry periods for many decades to come. By then it will be too late to restore them”

There are regular claims from the pulp wood industry that peat loss and subsidence can be curbed by using improved water management techniques. But the report underscores that such techniques, including the ‘eco-hidro’ peatland management model developed by APRIL, can only reduce the rate of subsidence and by not much more than 20%.

Another finding is that despite that most companies in the area have no-fire policies, 99% of the numerous fire hotspots that occurred on Kampar Peninsula over the last 15 years were in plantation areas. This clearly shows that even the largest companies have not been able to prevent or control fires. 

Extent of 2014 pulp and oil palm plantations and fires in the study area.




APRIL claims that by developing their Acacia pulp wood plantations in a ring-shaped area covering most of the outer margin of the Peninsula, they help to protect the forested inland parts of the Peninsula. However, drainage and subsidence inevitably affect the hydrology of the adjacent areas which are part of the same hydrological system, enhancing the fire risk in remaining natural forest and peat areas. The research covered an area of 674,200 ha. By 2014, almost half of the area (43 %) was converted to plantations, predominantly (71.7 %) to Acacia plantations for the pulp and paper industry. The plantations also threaten biodiversity, including a population of the endangered Sumatran Tiger and cause the release of vast amounts of carbon emissions as a result of peat drainage.

Wetlands International points out that peatlands can be cultivated with crops that are adapted to the wet soil conditions – a practice known aspaludiculture, which can provide a sustainable resource for industry and deliver economic prosperity to local communities. This and other recommendations are included in a Roadmap towards sustainable peatlands management for the Indonesian pulp industry, recently developed by Wetlands International and Indonesian civil society partners.

The organisation also recommended the Indonesian government to develop aNational Peatland Conservation and Restoration Strategy to curb the fires and haze disaster, carbon emissions from peat and flood risk. The Indonesian government plans to form a Peatland Restoration Task Force and develop regulations to improve peatland management and curb peatland fires, greenhouse gas emissions and haze. Wetlands International also calls upon the Indonesian government to review current and new policies in light of new scientific evidence of peatland subsidence and flooding.








Wednesday, December 09, 2015

38,000 ha APRIL concession frozen by the Minister

In November 2015, the Indonesia's Minister of the Environment and Forestry froze the license of a large concession block belonging to a major supplier of APRIL, (38,000 ha) on Rupat Island, in Sumatra's Riau province, since the company had been found to have violated the relevant prevailing regulations in its operations in the block. One of the sanctions incurred by the company in question was an obligation to apologize to the public through the mass media.
Greenpeace campaigner Rusmadya Maharuddin commented to that this apology needed to be followed by a clear and clean resolution of the concession block license suspension in order to gain legal certainty, and also needed to be consistently backed up by the implementation of APRIL's sustainability policy with respect to this supplier. "The legal process must be resolved in a clear and clean manner in parallel with the implementation of APRIL's sustainability policy, as previously committed, " Rusmadya said.