Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Indonesian network says APP should restore burned peatlands

Riau environmental coalition Jikalahari said that APP should remove the recently and unlawfully planted acacia, as ordered by the ministry: “we really hope that the APP companies exploiting last year’s burned peatlands face the full force of the law, both administrative and civil as well as criminal,” Jikalahari Chairwoman Woro Supartinah told foresthints.news

“The legal prohibition of this is clear. As such, APP must remove all the acacia they have replanted in last year’s burned peatlands,” Woro demanded “APP must not merely pull out all the acacia replanted in last year’s burned peatlands. It must also restore the burned peatlands it has misused” dded Woro.

The monitoring done by the ministry’s shows that no peat restoration efforts at all have been undertaken across APP’s related companies this year. On the contrary, some of them APP has been  found by replanting acacia in last year’s burned peatlands. Talking with Mongabay.com, APP claimed that the replanting has been authorised by the ministry, but the ministry recently stated otherwise.

Friday, December 23, 2016

APP: the government confirms that APP has to remove the acacia illegally planted on burned peat

Indonesia’s Ministry of the Environment and Forestry has reiterated that no legal authorisation was ever granted to the giant conglomerate Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) to replant acacia in last year’s burned peatlands scattered across the island of Sumatra, especially in its three concessions in South Sumatra province.

The government issued a new regulation that forbid plantation development and planting on peat that has been burned in Autumn 2015, as this peat have to be restored. In November this year, APP has been found by illegally planting acacia n burned peat, and the Ministry of Environment and Forestry imposed them to remove the newly planned acacia. According to Mongabay, however, APP commented offering only cryptic assurances that it follows “all government regulations and guidelines,” but  the Ministry of Environment and Forestry’s director of production forests  Putera Parthama, told Mongabay that at least two APP units had been allowed to replant burned peat with acacia pulpwood trees. (PT Bumi Mekar Hijau and PT Bumi Andalas Permai.) as “it was for fire prevention.”

This interpretation has been rejected by the Ministry of Environment and Forestry’s director Putera Prathama: “I need to emphasize that what has been reported by mongabay.com is legally and technically incorrect. The reporting by mongabay.com is not based on the letter that I sent to the APP companies concerned,” Dr Putera Prathama, the Ministry’s Director General of Sustainable Production Forest Management, told foresthints.news on Thursday (Dec 22) at the ministry office.
“My letter specifically addressed the clearing of non-peatland areas burned in last year’s fires as a way of avoiding any future land and forest fires,” Putera explained, adding that the clearing of land for fire prevention, has not to been confused with replanting acacia in burned areas.

“In my letter from mid-May 2016 in response to a letter from one of the APP companies operating in South Sumatra, I also asked the company to revise its 10-year work plan. However, the fact is that of the APP companies whose concessions contain significant amounts of burned peatlands, none have revised their work plans as yet,” bemoaned the Director General.

The Director General also assured that: “there is no policy inconsistency on the prohibition of replanting acacia in burned peatlands, as was indicated in the Mongabaay.com report. I hope that no more misleading news will come from mongabay.com in the future.”

Putera took the opportunity to reconfirm that the replanting of acacia in burned peatlands by APP companies was actually in contravention of the prevailing regulations.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

APP criticised by Indonesian authorities for failing to change practices

Indonesia’s Environment and Forestry Ministry refused APP plan for landscape conservation. The plan, released by the APP-driven Belantara Foundation, is aimed to “compensate” past damage by the company. However, according the Ministry, APP is just pretending get a green image by managing conservation in intact ecosystems, while their own concessions are managed by business-as-usual practices - including peat drainage.
A Ministry Director General wondered how APP could possibly pretend to lead conservation in ecosystems land outside their land bank, while failing to address the huge environmental impacts in their own concessions. In the past months, APP presented its conservation project in numerous international forums as a major example of corporate responsibility.


Indonesia’s Environment and Forestry Ministry has finally made an official announcement on the findings of its assessment concerning Asia Pulp and Paper (APP)’s landscape conservation. It turns out that directive maps of this landscape conservation have been posted on the website of the Belantara Foundation, a foundation formed and funded by APP for the purpose of implementing its landscape conservation.

“Our ministry has made an official determination that APP’s landscape conservation is inconsistent with the country’s forestry and environmental laws and regulations. As such, we would never approve it,” Professor San Afri Awang, Director General of Forestry Planology and Environmental Governance at the ministry, told foresthints.news on Tuesday (Nov 7) at the ministry’s complex.

The Director General said that the ministry would soon be sending a letter to APP to convey the official decision of the ministry. The Gadjah Mada University professor went on to confirm that APP had never been granted any authority whatsoever by the ministry for managing protection forests and conservation areas claimed as part of its landscape conservation. He then explained some more details behind the ministry’s rejection of the landscape conservation.

“They have cleared swathes of natural forest and dried out peatlands for years, enabling them to become the giant company they are today. Now, after doing this, they are trying to claim protection forests and conservation areas in a bid to rebrand their reputation. Of course this is unacceptable, especially in a legal sense.”

He then issued a stark warning to APP: “APP must focus on dealing with the hundreds of thousands of hectares of burned peatlands caused by last year’s peat fires which took place in their pulpwood concessions. This constitutes a legal obligation on their part.”

“They haven’t even managed to sort out their own pulpwood concessions, and you can add to that the number of violations they’ve committed. And now they want to take care of landscapes that don’t even form part of their concessions,” he said incredulously.

Professor San Afri alleged that APP is actually only using a landscape conservation approach to continue its regular operations which have been previously condemned. The proof of this, he explained, is that none of the vast burned peatlands in their concessions have been included as areas for restoration.

“APP just wants to proceed with its business-as-usual practices in the burned peatlands in their pulpwood concessions, particularly those located in South Sumatra province. They also want to continue their business-as-usual practices in the extensive drained peat domes in their concessions in the guise of best practices. This is undeniable. It’s a valid assertion.”

Meanwhile, Belantara Foundation CEO Agus P. Sari said that the foundation is waiting for permission from the ministry to enable it to support the management of conservation areas, in this case the conservation areas situated in APP’s landscape conservation map.

In a written message (Nov 8) in response to a question from foresthints.news, Agus stated: “If we don’t get permission from the government then of course we’ll withdraw. At the moment, we’re still in a consultation process with many other stakeholders.”

Agus also stated that the government was the key stakeholder in the issue, and thus it must be listened to and its directives complied with.

“As to those directive maps, that was simply an ‘idea’ and was not yet anything final. We are still facilitating this process by consulting with all relevant parties.”

The Director General asked “To what end is the Belantara Foundation creating legally misleading directive maps. What are their interests? Who are they? Who needs them? We, as the authority in the field of environment and forestry, have no need at all for such directive maps.”

He concluded by rejecting the notion that his ministry would ever approve the proposed landscape conservation. “Neither APP nor the Belantara Foundation has ever received permission from us, as the authority in the matter, to create directive maps for APP’s landscape conservation, in particular where state forest areas are involved, in this case protection forests, conservation areas and production forests.”

With respect to the exclusion of the peat restoration indicative map issued by Indonesia's peat restoration agency (BRG) in mid-September from the directive maps of the landscape conservation posted on the website of the Belantara Foundation, Agus claimed that he had discussed the process of harmonizing these maps with Peat Restoration Agency Chief Nazir Foead.

“What Pak Nazir said to me was positive. I came to show him the maps. These are the BRG and Belantara maps of the Padang Sugihan Landscape, and we looked at ways in which we could harmonize them. It was just the two of us in the meeting. Pak Nazir said it was good and asked in what ways the BRG could help,” explained Agus (Nov 3).

When foresthints.news sought confirmation of this directly from the agency chief, Nazir denied ever having held a one-on-one discussion concerning the maps referred to by the Belantara CEO.

“I have never met with Pak Agus alone to discuss the APP-Belantara landscape conservation maps. I also never said that the APP-Belantara landscape conservation maps are positive and good. I have only met him once, when I heard about his experiences in financing REDD+ in Indonesia,” Nazir told foresthints.news on Tuesday (Nov 8).

Nazir added in a rising tone: “How could I speak positively and say things were good? I have never even seen the maps.”  In the Padang Sugihan landscape alone, three APP pulpwood concessions are located which last year were afflicted by peat fires. A spatial analysis conducted by the peat agency shows that if the peat restoration indicative map had been included in the APP-Belantara landscape conservation directive maps, more than half a million hectares of acacia plantation blocks distributed across APP’s pulpwood concessions would have to be restored.

This is largely because of the extensive burned peatlands and drained peat domes spread throughout the concessions of APP, one of the world’s largest pulp and paper companies.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

No peat restoration efforts across APP’s supply chain, concludes ministry’s monitoring

After doing checks on the field, the Indonesia’s Environment and Forestry Ministry concluded that there has been no peat restoration activity this year in APP’s suppliers concessions. Instead, APP has been carrying out replanting of acacia in last year’s burned peatlands, an activity prohibited by a ministerial regulation since mid-December 2015.
“As of early December this year, the ministry’s monitoring has led to the conclusion that no peat restoration efforts have been carried out in APP’s pulpwood concessions,” stated the ministry' Director General San Afri Awang. According to the ministry, APP is also illegally replanting acacia in drained peat domes after the previous acacia harvest has been completed.

“APP must accept the legal consequences of replanting acacia in burned peatlands, considering that this has been outlawed since mid-December last year. These include removing the acacia that has already been planted in the burned peatlands,” explained San Afri Awang, Chairman of Peat Restoration Monitoring at the ministry, to Foresthints.news.

The ministry’s monitoring in one of APP’s pulpwood concessions in Riau, situated in the Giam Siak Landscape, demonstrated that APP has indeed replanted acacia in last year’s burned peatlands.

“APP should be avoiding the practice of replanting acacia in last year’s burned peatlands. They should be respecting the government’s prohibition,” admonished Professor San Afri, who also serves as one of the director generals at the ministry.

In early February 2013, APP launched its Forest Conservation Policy, which included a stated commitment to comply with Indonesia’s laws and regulations.

“If they comply with their own commitments (APP’s forest conservation policy), of course they also have to comply with Indonesia’s laws and regulations by not replanting acacia in last year’s burned peatlands. The NGOs which have had engagement with APP should have warned them about this,” the Director General asserted.

These photos illustrate how APP has failed to comply with Indonesia’s laws and regulations, including a failure to comply with its own forest conservation policy seeing that it has clearly replanted acacia in peatlands in its pulpwood concession, PT SPM, located in the Giam Siak Landscape, which were burned last year.

The DG suggested that NGOs which have been supporters of APP's Forest Conservation Policy should go to the field to see for themselves how APP is replanting acacia in last year's burned peatlands, something forbidden by the government.

“APP's Giam Siak Landscape has unclear conservation targets, which have been set merely to smooth over APP's business-as-usual practices," said San Afri.

Slow action

“Last year’s burned peatlands that have now been replanted by APP in its pulpwood concession in Giam Siak form part of the targeted peat restoration areas, as based on the indicative map issued by the Peat Restoration Agency. The peat agency, meanwhile, has appeared very slow in anticipating cases like this,” lamented Professor San Afri.

He reiterated that the formation of the peat agency by President Joko Widodo in early January this year was aimed at accelerating the restoration of peatlands, given that extraordinary efforts were deemed necessary to achieve peat restoration goals, as was clearly and explicitly laid out in the presidential regulation that established the peat agency.

“If the government simply employs business-as-usual practices in attempting to accomplish its peat restoration objectives, it’s the same as inviting the companies concerned to also conduct business-as-usual practices. In essence nothing changes - we are merely encouraging the peat fires to return again and again in the coming years.”

San Afri added that the ministry’s monitoring efforts form part of its attempt to ascertain to what extent peat restoration activities have been performed in concession areas this year, given that last year’s serious and massive peat fires occurred to a significant degree in these concession areas, and were especially prevalent in pulpwood and palm oil concessions.

“As of early December this year, the ministry’s monitoring has led to the conclusion that no peat restoration efforts have been carried out in APP’s pulpwood concessions,” said the DG indignantly.

In other words, the Director General has come to the conclusion that, based on the ministry's monitoring findings, the APP group continues with its business-as-usual practices which are compounded by a failure to undertake any peat restoration efforts across its supply chain.

Adding insult to injury, not only is APP still replanting acacia in last year's burned peatlands, but it is also replanting acacia in drained peat domes after the previous acacia harvest has been completed.

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.