June 7, 2018

Minister takes next move to stop peat violations in Leuser

( - Indonesian Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya has deployed a team to put an immediate end to the ongoing peat violations in two palm oil concessions in the Leuser Ecosystem.

This course of action was taken after a letter she sent early last month asking Aceh Governor Irwandi Yusuf to halt the destructive peat practices has failed to fully reach its objective.

The ongoing peat violations in question are taking place in the PT Kallista Alam and PT Surya Panen Subur (SPS-2) palm oil concessions, both of which lie in parts of a peat protection zone situated in the Tripa peat swamps on the west coast of Aceh.

This area, home to the world’s densest population of orangutans, is located in the Leuser Ecosystem.

In early December 2016, President Joko Widodo signed a revised government regulation, the main thrust of which was a ban on any new development of peatlands that causes peat drainage, in turn raising the susceptibility to peat fires. 

The two palm oil concessions concerned - which make up an important part of the Tripa peat swamps landscape - are well-known for being in locations especially vulnerable to such peat fires, as there is evidence that these have frequently occurred there.

“The primary instruction from our minister is to take immediate law enforcement measures. This is the second layer after the first layer has already been done by her writing to the Aceh governor requesting that the peat violations be stopped,” the Ministry’s Law Enforcement Director General Rasio “Roy” Ridho Sani explained to (Jun 5) at the ministry building.

A ground-based observation carried out by the team (Jun 4) - one month after the minister wrote to the Aceh governor - revealed that the construction of new canals and planting of new oil palms were continuing, most disturbingly in the burned peatlands in the PT Kallista Alam concession, as seen in the following photos.

At the same time, the clearing of peat forests inhabited by the Sumatran orangutan was also still underway in the PT SPS-2 concession, including the construction of new canals aimed at draining the peat for the expansion of palm oil plantations.

The continuing peat violations in the PT SPS-2 concession - despite the letter sent to the Aceh governor - were similarly documented by the team (Jun 4), as depicted in the photos below.

“A thorough and in-depth investigation is being conducted for the purpose of law enforcement. Besides taking these measures, our minister is also prioritizing the termination of the ongoing peat violations on the ground level,” the director general asserted. 

Roy elaborated further on the matter, pointing out that it is not only the revised government regulation which serves as the basis for stopping the continuing peat violations in the two concessions.

In addition, he explained, the moratorium on palm oil expansion in the Leuser Ecosystem, jointly declared by Minister Nurbaya and Acehnese leaders in April 2016, also provides a strong legal foundation for taking such action. 

As reported by in early November 2016, Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya also incorporated the boundaries of the Leuser ecosystem into the existing Aceh spatial plan by means of a ministerial decree, thereby turning these into an inseparable unit.

It needs to be highlighted that the remaining peat forests strewn among the Tripa peat swamps continue to shrink, reduced already to an area countable in the mere thousands of hectares. If the eradication of these peat forests, through clearing, burning and draining, does not relent, then the world’s densest orangutan population is destined to be lost forever.