Greenpeace comments on new canals built by APP companies

(foresthints.news) - Three pulpwood companies under the control of Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) which are operating in South Sumatra have reported to the Indonesian Ministry of the Environment and Forestry that they opened over 200km of new canals in 2015-2016.

The three companies in question are PT BAP, PT BMH and PT SBAWI, whose concessions are located in an expanse of peatland measuring in excess of half a million hectares in the regency of Ogan Komering Ilir (OKI). These three concessions were severely afflicted by 2015’s widespread peat fires.

The annual work plans of the three companies, which were legally submitted to the ministry, declare that their operations comply with APP’s Forest Conservation Policy, which prohibits any new canal development.

As to the more than 200km of new canals constructed in the three pulpwood concessions which supply acacia to the OKI Pulp and Paper Mills, foresthints.news asked Greenpeace for its opinion on the legal facts surrounding the issue.

“The question is whether any new canals have been opened on peat. There is no accurate peat map at this time in Indonesia, which makes answering this question challenging without any field checks,” Greenpeace Indonesia spokeperson Rusmadya Maharuddin conveyed in writing to foresthints.news (May 12).

Greenpeace went on to state that “If APP suppliers have developed canals in peatland during this period, then this is a clear violation of government instructions and regulations, and sanctions should thus be imposed against these suppliers by the government and by APP.”

Verifications performed

Following up on Greenpeace’s assertion about the lack of accurate peat data, foresthints.news took the initiative of conducting a spatial-based verification by overlaying Wetlands International-Indonesia Programme’s version of peat distribution data with that of the ministry in the concession maps of the three APP companies.

The verification results show that most of the concession areas of the three APP companies are situated in peatlands.

Meanwhile, a verification of the 10-year work plan, a legal document, of PT BAP - which was so badly hit by 2015’s fires - revealed that 100% of its concession area is composed of peatlands, as shown below:

The following two photographs show an example of the canal development on peat being undertaken in the PT BAP concession when heavy rain began to extinguish most of 2015’s huge peat fires.

A verification of PT SBAWI’s 10-year work plan was also carried out. This legal document states that the adjoining concessions of PT SBAWI, PT BAP and PT BMH largely comprise peatlands situated in a single expanse.

As such, according to this company’s work plan, holistic and joint management of the peatlands is required. The work plan sets forth that such joint management is completely possible seeing that the three companies form part of the same group - APP/Sinarmas Forestry.

The contents of these work plans prove that the data from Wetlands International and that of the ministry are very accurate as they are exactly the same as what the companies themselves acknowledge in their legal documents, which in turn form the basis of their operations.

In early January last year, President Joko Widodo established the Peat Restoration Agency in the wake of 2015’s massive peat fires which caused in excess of USD 26 billion worth of damage.

Subsequently, the President designated OKI in South Sumatra as one of four peat restoration priority regencies because of the extreme severity of the peat fires that took place there, particularly in concession areas including the three APP pulpwood concessions concerned.

Policy on track?

Considering that the annual work plans of the three APP companies assert that they are applying APP’s Forest Conservation Policy, foresthints.news asked Greenpeace whether the implementation of APP’s sustainability policy is on track or not.

This seemed like a pertinent question given that the three APP companies had divulged that they have constructed more than 200km new canals over at least the past two years.

In fact, the question is even more relevant in light of a recent APP statement claiming that the implementation of its Forest Conservation Policy has been on track for 4 years.

Greenpeace gave a pointed response to this question. “Companies are not able to be objective in assessing their policy implementation which is why Greenpeace and other NGOs support independent third party evaluations of such commitments.”

Greenpeace went on to declare that “the last evaluation of APP’s progress showed that there were still many problems and issues for APP in delivering its commitments.”