Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Forest fires: more APP plantations licenses suspended

Indonesia is punishing more than 20 companies in an unprecedented move for starting deadly forest fires that killed 19 people, a government official said Tuesday. The companies - most of them pulp wood plantations operating on concession land in Sumatra and Kalimantan - have had their business licences suspended. The firms include BMH and SWI, which have concessions in South Sumatra. BMH is a supplier to Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) in Indonesia. BMH, SWI and APP have the same parent company, the Sinar Mas Group. The suspensions would be lifted if, within the next two years, the companies show that they have made significant progress in efforts to prevent future fires.

Three more companies have been shut down permanently after having their licences revoked over their role in the blazes that choked vast expanses of southeast Asia with acrid haze and cost Indonesia $16 billion. among them Mega Alam Sentosa (MAS), another Sinar Mas controlled company.
It is the first time the government has revoked company licences over forest fires, an annual occurrence caused by slash-and-burn land clearance.

Several other companies have been given a strong warning and will be put under close supervision. "We have sanctioned 23 companies in total, ranging from administrative sanctions to license revocation, while 33 others are still in the process, they could have their licenses revoked too if they are found guilty," environment ministry official Kemal Amas.

The ministry has been investigating 276 companies in total since the fires broke out in September.
"We need firmer law enforcement so that this catastrophe does not repeat itself, it’s been going on for 18 years but nobody has learnt their lesson," Amas said.
Activists welcomed the government’s new commitment to punish firms. The Indonesian Forum for Environment (Walhi) said it was unheard of for the government to revoke licences, as many companies previously avoided facing trial. "The minister has the courage to not only freeze the companies' operation but also chase the owners in a civil case, this is great and this must be guarded carefully," Kurniawan told. "In the past some people were named suspects, but for them to actually lose their licenses, this is the first time," he said.

More than half a million people suffered acute respiratory infections in Indonesia because of the haze, while many in neighbouring Singapore and Malaysia also fell ill.

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.








Monday, December 07, 2015

Greenomics: APP related concession licenses frozen by the government due forest fires

Greenomics release today a new report on Asia Pulp & Paper (APP). According to thereport, two concessions linked to APP in South Sumatra have had their licenses frozen following the recent land and forest fires. In November 2015, the Indonesian Ministry of Environment and Forestry froze the license of PT Bumi Mekar Hijau (BMH) – an APP-linked concessionaire, whose concession is located in the province of South Sumatra, Sumatra island, Indonesia – because of the massive burning that occurred on its 250,000-hectare concession. Almost 400,000 hectares of APP-linked concessions located in peatland areas have had their licenses frozen.

Last week, a group of NGOs based in South Sumatra, released a briefing including maps showing that the the was majority of burned areas is inside concession related to APP: 78% of the burned concession areas in South Sumatra, more than a half on peat soil.

Greenomics  report  title is “APP Milestones?” quoting the milestones released by EPN in September 2013: "APP's Peatland Management Milestones and Peatland Best Practice Management programs must now be called into question” says the report. The Greenomics document criticize APP for starting to re-wet peat areas.
"The massive extent of the burned-out peatland on the largest APP-linked concession clearly demonstrates the company’s inability to comply with its legal obligation to prevent or control forest and land fires on its concessions”,  concludes Greenomics, adding that for this is the reason the Ministry of Environment and Forestry decide to freeze the BMH concession license.

Friday, December 04, 2015

New report: 70% burned area inside forest concessions in south sumatra links to APP

A group of Indonesian NGOs from South Sumatra released a new report analyzing the forest fires in the region. According to the report, the the was majority of burned areas is inside concession related to Asia Pulp & Paper (APP):

  • Total burned areas inside of APP concession is 78% (293,065 Ha) of the burned concession areas in South Sumatra (375,823 Ha).
  • More than one third of the whole APP concession area in South Sumatra (37%) has been burned.
  • More than a half of APP concession area burned (174,080 ha) was on peat.
  • Most of the burned area was already planted with acacia, which raises once more the question of how this loss will influence the fiber supply for APP’s new giant pulp mill in South Sumatra, PT. OKI Mill.

The report, released by Hutan Kita Institute (HaKI), LBH Palembang , WALHI South Sumatra and JMG South Sumatra , urges all consumers, buyers and investors of companies such as APP that are involved in forest fires to stop any business with them, until there is a evidence of improvement and evaluation of the companies’ commitments by independent parties.