Thursday, August 10, 2017

The minister: APP is not seriously implementing the peat regulations

The Indonesia’s Environment and Forestry Minister wrote to Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) to expressed disappointment in the lack of seriousness displayed by the company in its implementation of new peat regulations.

The government sent already several official letters (Jul 26 and 28). This time the Minister decided to write to the owners, Franky Widjaja and Linda Widjaja.
The new peat regulations has been issued by the government after the fires crisis in 2015, to prevent uncontrolled fires.

“APP clearly lacks seriousness in implementing the new peat regulations. It turns out that the proposed 10-year work plans of the APP companies in Riau and South Sumatra provinces contain copy-paste documents,” commented to a high official in the ministry.
The minister has given the APP companies involved a deadline of between 10-11 August to submit revised versions of their 10-year work plans.

Thursday, June 08, 2017

Indonesia’s plantation lobby challenges environmental law


Palm oil and paper lobby groups have asked Indonesia’s highest court to strike down rules holding plantation firms strictly liable for fires that occur on their land, according an article pubblished on Mongabay. The groups have also asked the Constitutional Court to eliminate a regulation letting small farmers practice slash-and-burn techniques, the cheapest land-clearing method and a mainstay of indigenous cultures in the Muslim-majority archipelago nation. 

The judicial review, filed last month by the Indonesian Palm Oil Association (GAPKI) and the Indonesian Association of Forestry Concessionaires (APHI), has prompted a backlash from critics who say it threatens the environment and indigenous peoples’ rights.

It comes amid a larger debate over who bears responsibility for the devastating fires that burn annually across Indonesia’s vast peat swamp zones, which have been widely drained and dried by oil palm and timber growers — and rendered highly flammable. The great fires of 2015 burned an area the size of Vermont, blanketed Southeast Asia in haze and sickened half a million people.

Companies like Asia Pulp & Paper — which saw more than a third of its land in South Sumatra burn in 2015 — often blame local communities for the fires which they claim spread in from outside or were started by trespassers in the huge, difficult-to-manage concessions. Critics point to the fact that Indonesia’s peatland drainage, the underlying cause of the fires, is largely the work of big corporations.

GAPKI and APHI are targeting three articles in the 2009 Environmental Law and one in the 1999 Forestry Law.

Some of the articles require firms to prevent and fight fires in their concessions. They have been used to sue and press charges against companies for such fires regardless of whether their negligence can be shown to have caused the burning, with such evidence difficult to produce. Judges’ interpretations of the rules have varied.

“Our plea is that our clients should be responsible only for their negligence, otherwise they must not be held accountable,” Refly Harun, who represents the associations, said in Jakarta on May 29.

The Ministry of Environment and Forestry is working with the House of Representatives to prepare a defense against the lawsuit. The minister, Siti Nurbaya Bakar, described it as a setback in the government’s efforts to protect nature.

The article stipulating “strict liability,” she argued, was in line with an article in the Constitution on environment protection and sustainability.

“It would be strange for Indonesia to scrap the article on strict liability,” she said, “because the concept is used the world over — strict liability is universal.”

Indonesian law bans the use of fire to clear land for all except the smallest farmers. The Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago (AMAN) says communities have practiced such techniques responsibly for centuries.

“Banning traditional land clearing poses a very dangerous threat to indigenous peoples whose lives depend on agriculture,” Rukka Sombolinggi, AMAN’s secretary general, said in an interview. She characterized the lawsuit as an attempt to scapegoat indigenous groups for problems they didn’t cause.

In some cases, the exception is abused. A report by the Center for International Forestry Research, a thinktank headquartered outside Jakarta, described how local elites organize farmers to burn land for sale to a variety of large and small buyers.

The lawsuit might not represent all members of the associations, but only some currently under legal scrutiny in wildfire cases, said Henri Subagyo, executive director of the Indonesian Center for Environmental Law (ICEL).

“If these troubled companies are looking for fairness, then they should come out and present their case so that it’s clear what is what,” he said. “But don’t hide behind the associations.”

He called strict liability the soul of the 2009 Environment Law. “If the Constitutional Court grants the judicial review, it will instead violate our constitution which stipulates environmental protection and sustainability.”

AMAN, ICEL and the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (WALHI) will submit an advisory letter to defend the contested regulations to the court on Thursday morning, according to WALHI Executive Director Nur Hidayati.

“Our move is to involve ourselves in the legal process as parties that are directly affected by the regulations, and this is our right that’s stipulated in the Constitutional Court Law,” she told reporters in Jakarta this week.

“We want to present our facts before the judges and clear up any misunderstanding of the regulations, but ultimately, our goal is for the court to reject the judicial review.”

A similar action is being taken separately by other environmental and rights groups, namely Sawit Watch, the Indonesian Human Rights Committee for Social Justice (IHCS), the Oil Palm Smallholders Union (SPKS) and Gadjah Mada University’s anticorruption study center and environmental law department.

Inda Fatinaware, executive director of Sawit Watch, which monitors the palm oil industry, called on the court to continue to uphold its commitment to protect the environment and society instead of siding with corporate interests.

“The court’s judges have showcased good intentions in handling environmental issues and in defending these articles that are important to enforcing environmental law,” Fatinaware said.

The judges have ordered the plaintiffs to revise their original submission as it failed to clearly define their legal standing and conclude how the contested regulations cost them their constitutional rights.

“Since this was submitted on behalf of the associations, who has authorized this lawsuit to represent the associations? How are the associations [as an organization] directly suffering losses from these regulations?” said judge I Gede Palguna.

The associations are expected to submit the revision by 10am on Friday, after which the court will decide on a date for the first hearing. 

The rules in question are Article 49 of the 1999 Forestry Law; and Article 69 clauses 1 and 2, Article 88 and Article 99 of the 2009 Environment Law.


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.




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.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Local communities protests in South Sumatra: "Restoration, not amnesty for corporate crime"

While governments and companies meet in Pelambang, South Sumatra, for the Bonn Challenge Meeting, local communities representatives coming from areas affected by plantations, organised together with NGOs a parallel meeting in the city.

Over 30 members of communities from areas degraded by industrial plantation for pulp, paper and oil palm development gathered with over 20 Civil Society Organizations from South Sumatra, Jambi, Riau, West, Central and East Kalimantan yesterday for the “Community Based Restoration Conference” in Palembang that ran in parallel to the Bonn Challenge Meeting. Community members and CSOs shared their experience about alternatives to industrial plantations and community efforts to improve livelihoods and restore degraded ecosystem and discussed the conditions and requirements for successful restoration efforts. The conference participants also developed the following statement to be shared with delegates to the Bonn Challenge meeting taking place today in Palembang.
They also opened a banner with the text: "Restoration, not amnesty for corporate crime"

Community Members from Areas Degraded by Pulp, Paper and Oil Palm Development and Civil Society Organizations Send Message to Bonn Challenge Delegates that Communities and CSO Must be Involved in Ecosystem Restoration Efforts and that Restoration Efforts Must Include the Recognition of their Customary Rights to the Land.
Meanwhile, as APP is presenting its own Forest Conservation Policy alongside with the Belantara Foundation at the Bonn Challenge meeting, reports that in the last two years APP in South Sumatra recently built new canals the length of Bonn to Brussels. According to a Forestry Ministry secretariat Genera, Bambang Hendroyono, three APP companies in South Sumatra province (PT BAP, PT BMH and PT SBAWI) have reported to the ministry through their annual reports, replete with maps, that they constructed around 200km of new canals in 2015-2016,” said Bambang.

Monday, April 03, 2017

APP supplier caught doing illegal activity

In December 2015 the Indonesian President signed a new regulation regulation on peat protection. The regulation and the related implementation rules issued by the Ministry of the Environment and Forestry forbid any new canal developments on peatlands.
Last month, a ministry inspection found that Asia Pulp & paper supplier PT. Sekato Pratama Makmur (PT. SPM) was opening a new canal in peat soil. The PT. SPM concession is in the Giam Siak Kecil-Bukit Batu landscape in Sumatra’s Riau province, a critical area declared UNESCO Man and the Biosphere Reserve
The reserve houses around 189 species of plants, 29 of which are classified as endangered under CITES, Appendix 1 and 3.Several species of animals found in the reserve are classified as endangered under CITES Appendix 1 including the Sumatran elephant and Sumatran tiger.
“This new canal construction is a flagrant violation of the newly-revised government regulation (on peat protection),” Karliansyah, the Ministry’s Director General of Pollution and Environmental Damage Control, said to
This is the most blatant violation of peat regulations by an APP supplier, following a list f at least 5 cases of conflicts between APP suppliers an the Ministry of the Environment and Forestry about illegal planting of acacia on burned peat.

Monday, March 20, 2017

NGOs send a letter to Asia Pulp & Paper

A group of nearly 60 Indonesian and international NGOs sent a letter to APP director, Linda Wijaya, to express their concern regarding a new possible supplier, PT. Bangun Rimba Sejahtera (PT BRS). According to a recent NGO report, the company has a concession laying up to 85% on land used by local communities for their livelihoods.
The report suggests that 100,000 people in West Bangka Regency could be affected by PT BRS operations, and that 21 villages (the majority of the affected villages) have expressed their opposition to the presence of PT BRS. The report finds that PT BRS has failed to undertake a credible Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) process. The concession, in order to be viable, must use lands claimed and used by local communities, consequently risks further igniting social unrest, undermining local livelihoods and creating serious land conflict.
The NGOs ask APP not to choose PT BRS as supplier. Please, find the letter here