33% of new palm oil concessions made up of peat ecosystems 

(foresthints.news) - This news report forms part of the coverage on the new palm oil permits granted to four companies in the Papua region as previously reported on by foresthints.news (Feb 1)

Of the four new palm oil permits issued last year in the Papua region, three of them lie in West Papua province and contain peat ecosystems. In compliance with Indonesia's new peat regulations, these palm oil companies should not be allowed to destroy these peat ecosystems, including within the confines of the utilization zones.

Measuring in total the equivalent of 58 thousand soccer fields, 33% of these three new palm oil concessions consists of peat ecosystems, according to the Indonesian Environment and Forestry Ministry’s peat ecosystem map released in late February last year.   

The figures in more detail indicate that of the three new palm oil concessions, 76% of one is made up of a peat ecosystem, while the other two contain a proportion of 15% and 32% in peat ecosystems respectively.

The two Google Earth images below show examples of the intact forests lying in the peat ecosystem situated in one of the three new palm oil permits. These images largely still represent the present situation on the ground.

No guarantees 

Considering that almost 67% of the three new concessions, major parts of which comprise high carbon stock (HCS) forests, are not located in the ministry’s peat ecosystem map, it seems inevitable that these mostly intact Papuan forests will become an arena for new palm oil expansion. 

What’s more, it’s not impossible that this palm oil expansion may grow with the further clearing of forested areas spread among the peat ecosystems in the concessions concerned.

This is a relevant point of concern when referring to a lesson learned displayed by a certain palm oil business group which continued clearing a peat ecosystem for palm oil expansion in Central Kalimantan’s Pulang Pisau regency.

If a similar situation were to take place in Papua, the peat ecosystems found in the three new palm oil concessions, whose current forest cover situation representations are mostly depicted in the following Google Earth images, would be cleared for new palm oil plantations.

Urgently required legal basis

The clearing of Papuan HCS forests in nearly 67% of the three new concessions can only be prevented by the presence of a legal basis as a follow-up to the announcement made by President Joko Widodo on a palm oil expansion moratorium in mid-April 2016.

Should a legal basis for the moratorium be issued in within this or next month, the expanse of forested Papuan areas mainly composed of intact forests, both peat ecosystems and not, as demonstrated by the Google Earth images below, could of course be protected from clearing for new palm oil expansion.

There is in fact no significant difference between what is seen in these images and the present situation on the ground.

Furthermore, the presence of a legal basis to underpin the palm oil expansion moratorium could also end the process of issuing new palm oil permits, which involves intact Papuan forests to a significant extent.

Recent data obtained by foresthints.news reveals that in excess of 258 thousand hectares, or 3.5 times the size of Singapore, will be used for palm oil expansion in the near future if a legal basis for the moratorium on such expansion does not emerge. 

Mid-April this year will mark exactly two years since the President’s moratorium announcement. As such, it is only natural that pertinent questions are raised if new palm oil permits involving areas of good forest cover continue to be issued, while no legal basis for implementing the moratorium comes about.