APP builds new canals the length of Bonn to Brussels

(foresthints.news) - Indonesia's largest environmental NGO, WALHI (Indonesian Friends of the Earth), expressed its view (May 8) that the landscape-based forest restoration initiative of Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) is an attempt at greenwashing and manipulating public opinion.

WALHI feels that this is partly to do with the bad image the pulp giant has acquired in the wake of the 2015 peat fires that ravaged as much as 250 thousand hectares of its South Sumatra concessions.

To follow up on WALHI's perspective on the issue, foresthints.news asked the Ministry of the Environment and Forestry about its position on APP's landscape-based forest restoration efforts.

“Since February last year, the ministry's stance has been clear, namely that we reject the APP landscape-based forest restoration as it is inconsistent with Indonesian forestry law and regulations,” the Ministry’s Secretary General Dr Bambang Hendroyono told foresthints.news on Monday (May 8) at the ministry building.

Bambang explained that the ministry has repeatedly made public statements on its rejection of APP's landscape-based forest restoration efforts.

“This rejection is based purely on legal considerations,” he affirmed.

Bonn to Brussels

With respect to APP's landscape-based forest restoration initiative, the secretary general pointed out that the ministry has analyzed peat violations in the form of new canals constructed by pulpwood companies, including APP companies, since a ban was imposed on such developments in early November 2015.

“For example, 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.

The following parts of the 2016 annual work plans submitted by two APP companies (PT BMH and PT BAP) to the ministry depict the new canals developed (underlined in red) during 2015 amounting to 180km in length. These work plans also attached maps illustrating the development of these new canals.

Work plans from the following year, 2017, also indicate the development of new canals. In the two blocks inspected at PT BMH, for example, dozens of kilometers of new canals were constructed during 2016.

“What's strange is that these APP companies are still building new canals even after the prohibition was issued in early November 2015,” he added.

The length of these new canals - of more than 200km - is roughly the same distance from Bonn (Germany) to Brussels (Belgium) or, in a local context, the distance from Jakarta to Bandung via toll road.

The evaluation of the new canal development, which involves pulpwood concessions, being conducted by the ministry, Bambang added, forms part of the implementation of the new peat regulations.

“Of course we need to study in greater detail the practices that have been carried out by the pulpwood companies for at least the past two years."

According to the ministry’s secretary general, there is naturally a big question mark about why, while the APP forest landscape-based forest restoration efforts have been in effect, APP has actually been constructing new canals in blatant contravention of the government ban imposed in early November 2015.

APP’s Forest Conservation Policy, which was launched in early February 2013, also prohibits new canal development. Indeed, a Rainforest Alliance report concluded that no evidence existed of new canal construction in APP’s supply chains from 1 February 2013 to mid-August 2014.

However, this evidence stands in stark contrast to the evidence from 2015-2016 indicating that in excess of 200km of new canals have been constructed by three APP companies in concessions in South Sumatra.