May 15, 2018

APP prioritizes new acacia expansion in peat ecosystem

(foresthints.news) - PT BMH, a pulpwood company controlled by Asia Pulp and Paper (APP), entered into a forestry partnership with the community of Riding village in South Sumatra’s OKI regency in April last year. Despite this, the company has prioritized the draining of the local peat ecosystem to expand its acacia plantations in the first year of this forestry partnership.

As part of this new acacia expansion in the partnership’s location, the APP company has, among other things, also drained parts of the peat protection zone, including by building new canals there. This not only constitutes an illegal practice, but its occurrence in this APP concession is shameful.

The newly-developed acacia plantations in the peat ecosystem, which cover an area of roughly 500 soccer fields in the PT BMH concession, also involve targeted peat restoration areas, most notably the peat ecosystem burned in 2015designated by the Indonesian Peat Restoration Agency (BRG) in mid-September 2016.

In the meantime, an agroforestry program and the creation of new rice fields for local communities, which are supposed to be part of the PT BMH-community forestry partnership, have not materialized in the partnership’s first year.

These were the key findings derived from a ground-check conducted by the foresthints.news team (May 6), and should serve as significant lessons learned from the forestry partnership announced by APP in April 2017.

Below are some photos depicting the new acacia plantation development carried out by PT BMH in parts of Indonesia’s peat protection zones. These practices undeniably represent peat violations. 

Surprisingly, these operations to expand the acacia plantations in the APP-controlled concession were taking place both before and after PT BMH’s 10-year revised work plan was approved by the Environment and Forestry Ministry in late September last year. 

More than 37 kilometers of new canals

Spatial calculations, based on time-series data sourced from USGS Landsat 8 and ESA Sentinel-2 images, performed by the foresthints.news team indicate that over 37 kilometers of new canals have been constructed by PT BMH for the new acacia expansion in its concession.

The following photos demonstrate how the APP-controlled company has been developing new canals which are used to drain 2015’s burned peat ecosystem, lying in parts of the peat agency’s targeted peat restoration areas. This occurred after PT BMH’s revised work plan was approved by the ministry.

When the foresthints.news team conducted a field observation in early May this year, excavators were still at work digging new canals in the peat ecosystem of the forestry partnership's site. Moreover, they were also deepening canals created a few months before. 

President Joko Widodo in early December 2016 signed a newly-revised government regulation that very clearly prohibited the construction of new canals in the peat ecosystem, as this practice causes drainage which, in turn, makes the peat ecosystem susceptible to fires.


It is essential that the key findings concerning this PT BMH-community forestry partnership, especially pertaining to new acacia expansion in the peat protection zone and in 2015’s burned peat ecosystem, are highlighted as they relate to the implementation of APP’s Forest Conservation Policy (FCP).

Five years after APP’s FCP was implemented, a number of environmental and social NGOs have pointed to, among other issues, the poor quality and slow progress of the implementation of the APP-community forestry partnership. 

Furthermore, ongoing efforts by APP to re-associate itself with the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) pose serious questions about the company’s destructive practices in the peat ecosystem and serve as lessons learned from the first year of the implementation of the forestry partnership concerned.