CSOs back govt’s law enforcement efforts against APP’s peat violations

JAKARTA (foresthints.news) - Via an official and legally-binding letter (Dec 5), Indonesia’s Minister of the Environment and Forestry, Dr Siti Nurbaya, has ordered three Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) companies operating in one of the peat restoration priority regencies, Ogan Komering Ilir (OKI) regency in South Sumatra province, to remove all the acacia planted in last year’s burned peatlands, as this replanting contravenes a ministerial regulation issued in mid-December 2015.

Forest Campaigner for Greenpeace Indonesia Yuyun Indradi said that Greenpeace unequivocally agreed with the minister’s instruction to the three APP pulpwood companies.

“Yes (we agree). Burned peatlands, of course, must be restored, including by carrying out canal blocking, rewetting and revegetation,” Yuyun said in a written response to a question on the matter from foresthints.news (Dec 10).

He went further, asking that the order to remove acacia be broadened to also include oil palms planted in last year’s burned peatlands. Similar action has, in fact, been taken against a palm oil company.

A listed company recently caught red-handed by top ministry officials planting oil palms in last year’s burned peatlands was also ordered by the minister to remove the planted oil palms in its concession. The company, PT DGS, is a subsidiary of TBLA which supplies a number of ‘no-peat exploitation’ companies.

Yuyun concluded by making another suggestion: “One of our concerns is law enforcement. If it’s possible, an environmental audit needs to be performed on the concessions operating in peatlands.”

These photos show depict the burned peatlands replanted with acacia by two of the three APP companies concerned, which in turn caused the minister to issue a letter ordering the removal of the replanted acacia.

Effective deterrent effect needed

Another NGO to express its backing for the minister’slegally-based action against the APP peatland violations is Walhi-South Sumatra (Indonesian Friends of the Earth / FoE).

“We support (the minister’s action). These three APP companies have clearly violated the law by replanting acacia in last year’s burned peatlands,” Hadi Jatmiko, Executive Director of Walhi-South Sumatra, told foresthints.news (Dec 12).

Hadi said that the ministry had to take stronger action to deter the three APP companies (from committing violations again), considering that to date any deterrent effect has proved ineffective, as evidenced by ongoing infringements such as the replanting of acacia in last year's burned peatlands.

"For example, the minister suspended the permit of two of these three APP companies owing to the massive last year’s peat fires in their concessions, but this has failed to deter them," he lamented.

To back up his assertion, Hadi cited the example of PT BMH – one of the three APP companies ordered by the minister to remove all acacia planted in last year’s burned peatlands – which continues to commit peatland violations.

“The law enforcement efforts from the minister need to create a deterrent effect,” he reiterated.

Restoration crucial

Wetlands International-Indonesia is also in agreement with and supports the law enforcement efforts by the minister against the APP companies which will require them to get rid of any acacia planted in last year’s burned peatlands.

“Law enforcement must be upheld. These APP companies should not only remove the acacia planted in last year’s burned peatlands, but they should also restore them,” Dr Nyoman Suryadiputra, Director of Wetlands International-Indonesia, told foresthints.news (Dec 16).

Nyoman appealed for APP to obey the minister’s order as part of its compliance with government law enforcement efforts. The burned peatlands in the APP concessions, he added, must be replanted with indigenous local vegetation.

Risk taken by APP companies

WWF-Indonesia echoed the view of its fellow NGOs, by declaring that the three APP companies accused of peatland violations by replanting acacia must remove the plants in accordance with the letter from the minister ordering them to do so.

“The companies have decided to take this risk. Why did they plant acacia in burned peatlands? The ban on doing this was clear,” Aditya Bayunanda, WWF-Indonesia’s Forest Commodity Leader, told foresthints.news (Dec 17).

In Aditya’s view, the three APP companies should conduct a total verification of the burned peatlands spread among their concessions, and especially so in the burned peatlands incorporated into the Indonesian Peat Restoration Agency map which have been targeted for restoration.

He added that the WWF fully supports the minister’s move to enforce the law against the three APP companies in question.

Negligence shown by APP companies

Meanwhile, Executive Director of Greenomics Indonesia Vanda Mutia Dewi said that her organization carried out the legal and administrative verifications underlying the minister's decision to issue the letter ordering the removal of replanted acacia in the burned peatlands of the three APP concessions.

"The results of our verification process proved that as companies whose concessions contain vast tracts of burned peatlands, the three APP companies have been legally negligent in not revising their 10-year work plans. Instead, they surprisingly decided to replant acacia in last year's burned peatlands. This was definitely a strange move for these APP companies to make," Vanda explained to foresthints.news (Dec 17).

According to Vanda, the minister first ordered the revision of the companies’ 10-year work plans way back in early November last year.

"In fact, in the middle of this year, they again received a letter from the ministry instructing them to revise their 10-year work plans. However, to this day, none of the 10-year work plans of the three APP concessions involved has been revised.”

No response

When asked for its view on the minister’s letter ordering them to eradicate all the acacia replanted by its companies, APP and Sinarmas Forestry failed to respond by the time of the deadline given to them.

The minister’s stern letter was issued following the findings that emerged from a series of ground checks, based partly on spatial monitoring, which demonstrated that the three APP companies had indeed committed the serious offence of replanting acacia in burned peatlands.