Monday, May 22, 2017

Pulp & paper industry: social impacts and little development

While RAN is voicing local communities affected by pulp & paper industry in Indonesia, the Environment and Forest Minister says that this industry gives a very marginal contribution to Indonesia’s GDP: less than 1%.  Ran published last week an online gallery of photos and quotes to amplify the voices of inspiring Indigenous and frontline leaders in Indonesia, affected by pulp and paper plantations. The goal of this vibrant site is to hold pulp and paper companies responsible to their policy promises by amplifying the voices of those on the frontlines. 

After years of campaigning, many corporations have committed to eliminate forest destruction and human rights abuses from their business. Despite these promises, hundreds of communities are still suffering the impacts of having their traditional forests and lands seized and cleared for industrial pulp plantations. Together, we demand more than paper promises. 

Across Indonesia and the world, frontline communities are still fighting to get their lands back, to have their forests protected, and to have their culture and rights respected. The images and interviews below are from the island of Sumatra, Indonesia, in the villages of Lubuk Mandarsah, Op. Bolus, and Aek Lung. These are only a subset of villages that have been negatively impacted by Asia Pulp and Paper (APP), APRIL, Toba Pulp Lestari (TPL), and other companies that have adopted strong policies that should—if properly implemented—protect communities and forests. 

About the impact of plantation industry, in a talk with, the Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya pointed out that 2015’s peat fires led to a decline in Indonesia’s economic growth that year. “Indonesia’s economic growth didn’t reach, let alone surpass, 5% in 2015. Instead, it hovered at around just 4.9%,” the minister said.

“The Minister of Industry, in his letter to me, wrote that palm oil accounts for 3% of Indonesian GDP. Of course, these are palm oil plantations in mineral soils and peatlands. This figure means that 97% of Indonesia’s GDP does not come from palm oil,” the Environment and Forestry Minister explained, adding that The minister added that the pulp & paper industry contributed less than 0.76% to Indonesia’s GDP in 2016.




According to the LiDAR mapping carried out by the Indonesian Peat Restoration Agency (BRG), one of the pulpwood concessions belonging to PT RAPP, a subsidiary of pulp and paper giant APRIL, located on Pulau Padang in Sumatra’s Riau province, is largely composed of deep-lying peat.
LiDAR is a surveying method that measures peat deafness using pulsed laser light.
The results of the LiDAR mapping performed by the peat agency were also backed by the Indonesian Geospatial Information Agency (BIG), the Ministry of the Environment and Forestry, the Indonesian National Institute of Aeronautics and Space (LAPAN), the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Public Works and Public Housing and Gajah Mada University.

“Major parts of the APRIL concession on Pulau Padang are situated in deep-lying peat, - Peat Agency Chief Nazir Foead told - "The majority of peat in the concession ranges from more than 5 meters up to 10 meters in depth,” 
In February this year, Environment and Forestry Minister Dr Siti Nurbaya signed the peatland ecosystem map, which classifies various peatland areas into protection and utilization zones. This map also indicates that the bulk of the APRIL concession on this small Sumatran island lies in a protection zone.

The ministry has imposed a tight schedule on almost one hundred pulpwood companies to revise their 10-year work plans by incorporating peatlands classified as protection zones into these revised work plans. Pulpwood companies under the control of the APRIL group are no exception in this regard.

Last year, PT RAPP was declared by Indonesian authorities to be involved in a series of peat violations after a ban on any new peat development was issued by the Indonesian government in early November 2015.

This first of these peat violations was uncovered by a surprise inspection of the APRIL concession by the Peat Agency Chief Nazir Foead who witnessed first-hand the new peat development practices being perpetrated by the APRIL company in its Pulau Padang concession.

On the basis of these peat violations, the ministry suspended the operations of the APRIL company in this concession.

Not long thereafter, in September 2016, the ministry uncovered the legal fact that the APRIL company was still adding new plantation areas involving peatlands through its new peat development practices.

This finding prompted PT RAPP’s 10-year work plan to be revoked by the ministry in early October 2016.

This was not the end of the matter - the ministry also discovered on-the-spot facts demonstrating that the APRIL company was committing peat violationsin the form of new peat development in another of its concessions situated in the Kampar Peninsula landscape, also in Sumatra’s Riau province.

In early December 2016, the ministry ordered the company to remove the acacia recently planted in these newly-developed peat areas. However, the APRIL company failed to comply with this instruction.

This lack of compliance resulted in the imposition of sanctions on PT RAPP in early March this year, compelling the Singapore-based company to get rid of the acacia planted in these newly-developed peatlands as well as to close the new canals constructed there.

Eventually, the APRIL company reported, via an official letter sent to the ministry (Mar 31), that it had partially removed the acacia planted in the newly-developed peat areas and closed some of the new canals it had developed. The company also asked for an additional 30 days for it to comply with the provisions of the sanctions in full.

It should also be noted that the APRIL company’s operations were also hit by sanctions from the ministry due to the peat fires which ravaged its Pulau Padang concession in 2016.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Too much hot air: paper's climate change impacts in Indonesia

A new report ‘Too Much Hot Air‘, details the shocking climate change impacts of the Indonesian pulp and paper industry through damage to peatlands, and highlights solutions in the form of ‘paludiculture’, with examples of good practice from local communities. The report is a discussion document, and it concludes with questions about we can move to a more sustainable future for Indonesian peatlands.

The pulp and paper industry in Indonesia has extensive tree plantations on drained peatlands. After drainage, the peat oxidizes, releasing carbon in the form of CO2 into the atmosphere. Drained peatland contributes more than half of Indonesia’s greenhouse gas emissions, which in addition to above-ground deforestation emissions, puts Indonesia among the world’s highest greenhouse gas emitters.

Greenhouse gas emissions from the Indonesian pulp and paper sector are estimated at 88 million tonnes of CO2 per year from peat oxidation, more than Finland’s entire national emissions. An additional unknown but probably even larger amount is released in periodic peat fire events, such as the one in 2015, which also caused life-threatening smog and haze.

Local communities in Indonesia are developing methods of managing peatlands in a responsible way, re-discovering traditional practices and experimenting with new methods of paludiculture, the practice of mixed crop production on undrained or re-wetted peat soils. However, the pulp and paper industry has not yet developed a corresponding paludiculture system at a sufficient scale to substantially reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and prevent excessive risk of fire and flooding. Urgent action is required to prevent a climate catastrophe.