APRIL company’s legal document reinforces peat protection zones

(foresthints.news) - The distribution of peat domes in pulpwood concessions, as legally and officially reported by pulpwood companies to Indonesia’s Ministry of the Environment and Forestry, has boosted the accuracy of peat protection zones designated by the ministry in February this year.

An example of this is the distribution of deep-lying peat and peat domes in a concession belonging to pulp and paper giant APRIL, the Pelalawan estate, located in the Kampar Peninsula of Riau, Sumatra.

At the end of April this year, President Joko Widodo again ordered the restoration of the ecology of peat domes. On the island of Sumatra, for instance, the majority of peat domes have been drained to be converted into pulpwood and palm oil plantations.

A legal document from APRIL subsidiary PT RAPP states that the Pelalawan estate spans more than 75,000 hectares, roughly the size of Singapore.

In the legal document submitted to the ministry (2006) by the Singapore-based company, it is revealed that 70% of the Pelalawan estate is made up of deep-lying peat - which also usually constitutes peat domes, according to the document.

The following map - photographed by foresthints.news - illustrates the distribution of deep-lying peat which is typically comprised of peat domes (green-coloured areas), as mentioned in PT RAPP’s legal document.

Furthermore, an analysis performed using LiDAR data (Deltares, 2015) demonstrated that almost the entire Kampar Peninsula landscape has an average minimum thickness of 4.9m and a more likely average thickness of 7m.

PT RAPP’s Pelalawan estate forms part of the Kampar Peninsula landscape. As such, the LiDAR-based analysis largely reinforces the legal document from the APRIL company, at least with regard to deep-lying peat in this estate. The results of the Deltares LiDAR analysis are seen below.

Ministry’s peat protection zones

Meanwhile, the ministry’s data concerning the distribution of peat protection zones indicates that the APRIL company’s Pelalawan estate measures 86,000 hectares (area calculation based on GIS) and that over 74% of it has been designated as a peat protection zone by the ministry.

The following map, which was photographed by foresthints.news from the ministry’s presentation slides, depicts the distribution of peat protection zones (red-coloured areas) in the Pelalawan estate.

In early November 2015, Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya - as instructed by President Joko Widodo at a cabinet meeting - placed a ban on any new peat development in forestry and palm oil plantations.

Nonetheless, this ban was ignored by the APRIL company as it was revising its 10-year work plan involving new peat development in the Pelalawan estate. As a consequence of this, in early October last year, the ministry annulled the work plan.

The ministry’s actions did not end there - it also conducted a ground check, exposing the fact that the APRIL company had already undertaken new peat development, most notably by clearing forested peatlands, constructing new canals and planting new acacia.

This situation caused the ministry to order the giant paper company to remove all of the newly-planted acacia, as well as to restore the newly-developed peatlands, in the Pelalawan estate. The company, however, failed to comply with this directive.

Subsequently, in early March this year, top ministry officials carried out a symbolic removal of the newly-planted acacia in the APRIL pulpwood estate concerned. This was followed by the imposition of sanctions on the APRIL company by the minister (Mar 23), compelling it to get rid of the newly-planted acacia and restore the newly-developed peatlands.

As previously reported by foresthints.news (Jun 14), the APRIL company has shown compliance in this regard by uprooting the newly-planted acacia, which covered a peat violation area the size of 600 football fields, and also by closing newly-constructed canals.

The ministry’s law enforcement measures in this case emphasize the undeniable fact that, as promised, the Joko Widodo administration is unwilling to compromise whatsoever when it comes to peat violations.